The fourth tier of government is Native Title Tribunal

By Babs McHugh- ABC

The last day of a national inquiry into the impact of the practice of fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) of workers for mining operations on regional Australia took a different direction, when remote FOCUS fronted the Regional Australia Committee.

Members Fred Chaney, AO, and Dr Bruce Walker, laid the cause of problems of rural Australia squarely at the feet of all tiers of government.

Mr Chaney called for the committee to change its terms of reference to look at what he says are long decades of neglect from local, state and federal governments.

He also said that a fourth tier of government had effectively been formed with the birth of the Native Title Tribunal and Aboriginal land councils.

Think-tank remoteFOCUS, based in Alice Springs, has prepared a report into the issue which it plans to have tabled in FederalParliament within weeks.

“People feel they live in the forgotten backyard of the capital cities,” Mr Chaney said.

“They’re not part of the national narrative and are left to deal with decisions not of their making that affect the rest of their lives.”

Both Mr Chaney and Dr Walker spoke at length about city-based, bureaucrats who fly into remote communities with clipboards and no understanding of local issues, then fly out again.

Dr Walker says he has done a number of case studies of rural communities that are not viable, and he pointed to the iron ore town of Port Hedland in Western Australia.

“Without the charity of BHP Billiton, Port Hedland wouldn’t survive,” he said.

“A town that doesn’t have a baker, a butcher or a dry cleaner could hardly be seen to be viable.

“A town with a rate base that doesn’t cover the salaries of the employees of the shire council can hardly be called viable.

“Yet that’s the case right across Australia.”