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Essential Services in Urban and Regional Australia – a Quantitative Comparison

Over recent decades the Australian economy has largely been deregulated, and governments have progressively reduced direct involvement in the provision of a wide range of services to the community. The trend towards reduced direct government involvement in service delivery commenced during the 1980s, and was accelerated by the National Competition Policy agreement of 1994. Over the past two decades, the direct involvement of governments in the provision of services including telecommunications, public transport, some postal services, education, health and medicine, transport infrastructure and a range of health-related services has been substantially reduced.

One unresolved aspect of these changes is the extent to which governments have an obligation to provide a core set of essential services to all taxpayers, irrespective of their place of residence. This was an issue that remained contentious during the sometimes intense political debates over National Competition Policy, and which regularly resurfaces in debates about the quality of telecommunication, health and education services in rural and regional Australia.

A major weakness in the debates about this issue has been the lack of objective data that enables essential service accessibility to be compared between locations, and over time. The research project reported here has addressed this by utilising census and other data to develop objective measures of essential service accessibility.

The intent in developing this data is not to advance arguments that all Australians should have absolutely equal access to all essential services, but rather to provide a mechanism to enable more objective decision-making to occur. This should assist in ensuring that residents of regional and rural areas maintain equitable access to essential services; that governments innovate to find better ways to efficiently provide essential services to all residents; and that governments consider alternative policy measures in the event that essential services cannot be made universally available.

Newly released research has for the first time quantified the extra costs faced by Australia’s non-metropolitan residents in accessing essential Government services, and highlighted the need to find better ways to deliver essential services in regional Australia.

The research, commissioned by the Australian Farm Institute and carried out by the National Institute of Industry and Economic Research (NIEIR), used census and other objective data to calculate the costs faced by all Australian residents in accessing essential services such as doctors, hospitals, schools, TAFE colleges and universities. These costs were then compared between metropolitan, urban and rural residents.

Full Report

November  2009, pp. 1 - 81 (81 pages)
Publisher: Australian Farm Institute
Author: National Institute of Economic and Industry Research (NIEIR)
ISBN 978-0-9806912-5-2 (Print)
ISBN 978-0-9806912-6-9 (Web)

$77.00


 
 




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