Regional Australia

1. Front line government workers in remote areas

1.1: To increase the pay of front line government workers in remote areas.

  • Create a national, unified, federally funded scheme that increases salaries for all frontline service staff (or in the case of GPs, medicare payments) in regional areas, based on the need and remoteness of the community served.
  • This would replace all existing state and commonwealth incentives, and in the case of state government employees, receipt of the funds would be conditional on individual commonwealth-state agreements to end other schemes (such as seniority-based transfer systems).

Regional centres face perpetual difficulties attracting the staff needed to provide government services. Existing schemes to address this problem are ad hoc, frequently coercive in nature, inefficient, and come with numerous unintended side effects. For instance, in NSW, a seniority-based system forces new teachers to work in unpopular schools, which largely consist of remote areas. As a result, many are driven out of the system or never enter it in the first places, while the most disadvantaged and remote schools are perpetually served by the least experienced staff, with high turnover and resulting disruption to school communities and students.

Likewise, foreign doctors are given visas conditional on their working in rural towns, which provides no enduring solution for the stable, long term continuity of care that best serves a population. Higher pay, however, provides the incentive to attract more of those staff who have a genuine desire to work in regional Australia.

2. Reduce regulation on remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) in regional areas

2.1: The Science Party supports the amendments surrounding remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) which came into effect in 2016, reducing restrictions for small RPAs on private property and in unpopulated areas. We also support continued review of potential uses and drawbacks in urban areas.

RPAs are an exciting and potentially revolutionary technology. Although developed for military use, like many such technologies their peacetime applications may prove to have the largest impact.

RPAs in cities raise issues of both safety and privacy, with the potential for unwanted and intrusive surveillance. However in regional areas these concerns are outweighed by the potential uses of this technology, which include tracking livestock movements, measuring crop yields, or efficiently targeting and spraying pesticides.

The Science Party has advocated for sensible reform in this area since 2013 and supports the outcomes of CASA’s review of the restrictive 2002 legislation.

3. Payments for universities that deliver online education to students in remote areas

3.1: The Science Party would fund a bonus payment per enrolment to any university that can deliver a primarily online version of a degree to a student without a nearby university. This would require on-campus attendance no more than once every year for a period of no more than three weeks (for example, this might be used for examinations).

Online education has revolutionary potential that is currently under-used, especially in a country such as Australia which is both technologically advanced and subject to the tyranny of distance. In particular, students in regional areas have some of the largest potential gains from greater accessibility, especially in the short term.

Increased availability of online education need not come at the cost of campus-based education places or a reduction in existing schemes that assist rural and regional Australians to access education on campus. The Science Party believes strongly in increasing access to education in all forms for all Australians (for more information see our Education policy).

4. Take a stronger stance in trade negotiations against agricultural protectionism by developed nations

4.1: The Science Party believes Australia should fearlessly advocate to remove agricultural trade barriers even in the face of first world opposition.

Much of the developed world is in economic turmoil, austerity measures are common, while unemployment soars and budget deficits balloon. Yet taxpayers in the European Union and United States continue to subsidise their agricultural sectors to the tune of billions of dollars per year. The major beneficiaries are large agribusinesses, while the consumers of those countries pay from a lack of competition in food markets.

What’s worse, this protectionism harms agricultural exporting nations – which includes Australia, as well as many of the world’s poorest nations. It’s free trade for the U.S. and E.U., and unfree trade for the rest of us.

The highly efficient and competitive, technologically advanced farmers of Australia, the impoverished farmers of the developing world, and hundreds of millions of Americans and Europeans as both consumers and taxpayers, are losing out under these immoral trade policies.