Our regions

SA-BEST’S priorities are: 

  • to establish an innovative grants program allowing university graduates to have their HECS debt “repaid” in full in return for working in regional South Australia; 
  • demand the government undertake a two-year trial abolishing stamp duty for first home buyers and a 12-month trial for investors building new homes - capped at the median price; 
  • introduce a $8000 grant with discounted stamp duty exemption for the construction of new homes in regions for other home buyers; 
  • demand a one-off waiver of stamp duty for aged pensioners who downsize to a smaller property; 
  • improve public transport services within the regions, but also connecting to major cities; 
  • explore the feasibility of resuming a country rail passenger link between Whyalla, Port Augusta and Adelaide; 
  • increase the frequency of bus services from the Spencer Gulf region to Adelaide, including weekends; 
  • ensure appropriate funding by the SA Government to retain and expand the Overland train service between Melbourne and Adelaide; 
  • advocate for the refurbishment of the grain train rail line on Eyre Peninsula abandoned by multi-national grain handling company, Viterra; 
  • support calls for expanding the rail corridor to Mt Barker linking up with the Belair-Blackwood line to ease the congestion on the freeway as well as provide an alternative and comfortable journey to the city for commuters; 
  • seek to establish a parliamentary Select Committee to look at the feasibility of the Mt Barker rail project; 
  • revisit the decision to knock back the deep-water port at Smith Bay on Kangaroo Island;  
  • support a proposal by Chateau Tanunda owner, John Geber, to reopen the rail line to the world-famous Barossa Valley for a tourist wine train, and; 
  • address the public housing and rental shortages in the regions. 

Growing our Regions

SA-BEST believes our regions have been taken for granted for too long.

We are committed to working with our regional communities to establish clear growth strategies and population targets for South Australian regional centres and to ensure that regional economies are supported to grow and prosper.

We will push for a comprehensive Regional Development Strategy to be developed and backed by a Regional Growth fund and a Regional Entrepreneur/Research and Development fund for existing and new regionally based or focused innovations.

We will also push for the recommendations of the Forestry Industry Advisory Council to be implemented.

Our regions and towns offer clean pristine environments, an affordable, safe and relaxed lifestyle with a strong sense of community.

There is existing capacity in regional schools and hospitals, for affordable housing, for job opportunities and a high level of local support for population growth and new industries capitalising on the assets of the regions.

Our regional centres and rural communities have been exemplary agricultural, fishing, forestry and aquaculture producers and exporters, home to skilled manufacturing, industrial output and mining.

Our regional centres have an abundance of space and on average 300 days of sunshine that position them for a new future in value-adding in land and sea-based food production, mining, wind and solar energy generation, sea water desalination,  forestry and tourism.

We are already seeing this in many regional areas including Roxby Downs, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Whyalla, Mount Gambier and Murray Bridge.

Committing to actively growing our country centres limits the urban sprawl of metropolitan Adelaide, while building a powering regional economic base to provide more workers for our rural industries and support a secure future for our regions and our state.

Solutions will need to be tailored for each region and will require both State and Federal Governments to work in strong partnership with Local Councils and communities to develop a comprehensive strategy with key performance measures and resourcing attached to foster sustainable growth.

Supporting this commitment will be a Regional Growth fund to leverage investment into new, catalytic infrastructure to help grow our regions and activate local economies and a Regional Entrepreneurs Programme to encourage new businesses to start-up or relocate in regional areas.

We need to invest substantial research and development funds into regional industries like forestry, meatworks, mining, fishing and aquaculture.

Improve Telecommunications

SA-BEST supports a State Regional Telecommunications fund allocation of $40 million to leverage Federal and private investment into mobile phone and internet blackspots and improve the reliability of mobile phone signal for rural communities during emergencies. We still do not have good nbn in many regional areas which is unacceptable in 2022.

There are around 800 sites in South Australia identified in the national Mobile Blackspots database.

We need to make sure there is sufficient State Government funding allocated to make serious inroads to fix this connectivity backlog.

The South Australian Government has so far contributed very little to these priorities.

South Australia needs to do better. We have a lot of catching up to do.

We have sadly seen how regional communities face additional risks during natural disasters such as bush fires, and have deal with great challenges of rebuilding and recovering after these.

SA-BEST will advocate for disaster recovery funding to be substantially increased.

SA-BEST is strongly committed to improving the reliability of mobile phone signal for rural communities during emergencies and to better resourcing emergency services such as the CFS, including purchasing specialised firefighting equipment.

We will also continue to work with our federal colleagues to push for legislative amendment to ensure mobile phone base towers have at least 24 hours of reserve power in regional areas particularly prone to bushfires.

Improve Regional Roads and Rail

SA-BEST will push for an increase in the share of arterial road maintenance funding to address the backlog of rural road repair and to support the retention of rail where it is currently available to keep as much freight off our roads as possible.  SA-BEST is a strong advocate to retain rail on Eyre Peninsula and will continue to oppose rail closures.

SA-BEST has been a strong advocate for the new Smith Bay deep sea port on Kangaroo Island so that timber and other commodities can be more economically and efficiently transported to and from the island, thus growing key economies such as non-GM crops and timber.

We will push for this project to be approved - as recommended to the State Government by the State Planning Commission – buts controversially overturned by the Planning Minister in 2021.

Expand Regional Education

SA-BEST strongly supports the re-establishment of a strong TAFE and tertiary education presence in regional centres, and a re-focus on school to work transition for trades in demand in the regions. 

We strongly support the reintroduction of teacher training and other trade training in regions, including the APY Lands and other remote centres such as Coober Pedy.

We also support increased funding to regional and remote schools for better infrastructure and technology.

Improve access to Health Services

SA-BEST strongly advocates for more permanent GPs in country and regional SA - and incentives to attract and retain them. We will also advocate for more permanent and visiting specialists, especially mental health and psychiatry services in regional areas.

We will press for improved funding for country hospitals, including fast-tracking capital upgrades and maintenance that have been neglected.

We will advocate for a stronger network of drug and alcohol rehabilitation and support services to be permanently available in country communities. We strongly oppose infrequent visitor mental health services or only online services.

We will strongly advocate for the maintenance of ambulances and staffing in the regions to ensure that there is never any ramping at regional hospitals.

See SA-BEST’s Health policy for more detail on health in the regions.

Improve support to the Agriculture, Forestry and Farming Sectors

SA-BEST will carefully consider any changes proposed to the SA Pastoral Land Act and consult closely with all stakeholders including Pastoral Lease holders.

SA-BEST is committed to acting in the best interests of those effected to ensure they are not disadvantaged by any proposed changes to the legislation.

We are strongly committed to implementing the 15 recommendations of the 2021 report from the Forestry Industry Advisory Council of SA.

SA-BEST founder, Nick Xenophon, was instrumental in establishing this Council and government should act on its expert advice.

The recommendations show how government and industry can work together to double the economic value of the South Australian domestic forestry related manufacturing.

Labor’s poor decision to privatise our forests has cost taxpayers billions of dollars in lost revenue and lack of oversight of production and forward planning.

SA-BEST strongly supports expansion of the forestry industry and associated manufacturing including wood products, paper manufacturing and biofuels in the South East region.

We are keen to ensure we learn from the pandemic and re-establish our own manufacturing base and supply chain in the regions to expand on these forestry-associated industries that already contribute $2.5 billion of product per year.

SA-BEST will advocate that the SA Government must prioritise selling its logs to SA timber mills and the domestic market first and foremost, rather than favouring exporters who on-sell the product to overseas markets in China and India for greater profit - but to Australia’s detriment.  

We will also continue to work toward;

  • implementing a five-year farm income protection (multi-peril) policy rebate, similar to that being considered in NSW. We also support a stamp duty exemption on multi-peril policies and will work with our federal colleagues to provide 150% tax deduction for farm multi-peril crop insurance.
  • reviewing the proposed Farm to Farm vehicle inspection regime to find a solution that is practical and cost-effective for farmers, without compromising road safety.
  • investigating options to strengthen legislative protections for agricultural land to reduce land use conflict and loss of our premium agricultural and pastoral estates.
  • introducing a “New to Farming” loan scheme, based on existing models in the United States and Canada, to encourage new entrants who have not previously owned a farm or agribusiness and who can demonstrate a viable business case, especially on pastoral land
  • recognising any seasonal work or other labour shortages and pressing for local training and recruitment to maximise workforce participation in the agricultural industry, including introducing incentives for pensioners to work in agriculture whilst without impacting their pensions.
  • pressing for regional relocation incentives for skills shortages including meat workers, trades, health personnel and teachers.
  • continuing to work closely with the fishing and aquaculture industries to maximise their growth, sustainability and future directions.   
  • carefully considering  transition mechanisms for fire, drought and disaster funding that must be put in place to minimise and manage the growing risks faced by land and sea farmers.
  • pursing issues such as difficulties many farmers have faced regarding access to a heavy vehicle inspection stations or officer and costs associated with the proposed annual roadworthiness inspection versus the frequency of use. We need to ensure a fair and cost-effective inspection regime for infrequently used heavy farm vehicles, without compromising road safety.
  • investigating and supporting better land management and natural resource management funding and supports to farmers and Native Title Holders who are the custodians of 65% of the state’s remaining native vegetation and many of our water catchments. Unfortunately, the current approach to managing our natural resources is failing - plagued by inefficiency and cumbersome bureaucracy, with too much focus on planning, administration and enforcement and not enough on supporting positive projects. We need a much stronger focus on on-ground and extension support and programmes and supports for land holders.

 SA-BEST  is committed to ensuring the state’s agricultural lands are not encroached upon by other industry or land uses that will deplete our already small food bowl.

We will call for increased research and development in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, viticulture and aquaculture industries.

There has been a significant reduction in funding for agricultural research and development over the past decade.

Further advances in agricultural productivity - in the face of more fires, droughts and changing rainfall patterns - cannot be made without advances in agri-technology, biosecurity, plant breeding, carbon management and soil microbiology.

We need a much stronger state commitment to R&D in order to leverage Commonwealth and private sector investment and support new advances in productivity and sustainability.

The state needs to recognise the value of the agricultural sector to our economy, our communities and our future.

Steps need to be taken to ensure the South Australian agricultural industry is sustainable and better positioned to take advantage of the growing export markets that will support our local economies.

Decentralised regional location of services

SA-BEST supports a strong, efficient, responsive public service, where decisions are directly connected to the communities, lives and livelihoods they impact upon.  

This is particularly evident for country communities. The more the public service is centralised, the more policy decisions are formed through a “city” lens and the more connection with the country is lost. 

SA-BEST supports a more equitable share of taxpayer funded jobs being located in regional and country communities. 

This provides new career options for our country kids, a broader mix of skills into local communities, and importantly - provides more efficient, practical and relevant citizen centric policy and decision-making. 

We need to look at improving the way incentives and job tenure for regionally-based public sector positions are implemented to make the option of living and working in country SA more equitable and sustainable. 

We also need to get more departmental decision-makers out of the city and into the regions consulting with people on whom their decisions will most impact. 

We will advocate for the retention of bricks and mortar shop fronts for Service SA, banks , and the like, in regional centres. 

We will also continue to call for better maintenance of existing public housing in regional areas, and an increase in new and appropriate public housing construction for smaller and ageing households.