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The Regional Jobs Scheme

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

The Regional Jobs Scheme (RJS) was a government initiative first announced by the Coalition government in May of 2017. It was aimed at creating employment opportunities in regional areas. It was designed to encourage businesses to relocate or expand their operations to regional locations, thereby generating new jobs and economic growth outside of major cities.

A tractor in a field with the text "Regional Jobs Scheme" foregrounded.

In 2019 the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) released a report which highlighted that the initiative suffered from conflicts of interests and intervention by ministers. Out of the hundreds of applications for job programs in regional areas which were recommended by government officials, the ministerial panel overseeing the scheme rejected 64 of these projects which would have totalled nearly $76 million. Instead more than $77 million was allocated to 64 alternative projects which were not recommended. Furthermore, the report found that 132 funding decisions differed from what the department had recommended as a result of interventions made by the ministerial panel. In total 28% of all recommended applications were not funded under the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages totalling $220.5 million.

The Auditor-General for the report, Grant Hehir stated:

"This adversely affected accountability as it meant there was not a clear line of sight between the departmental assessment results, the subsequent adjustments by the ministerial panel and the funding decisions..."

The report added that it was "not evident" that the panel was giving preference to projects in some regions over others, despite the report also noting that there were "various shortcomings" regarding the process of planning committee members being required to declare conflicts of interest. Contractors were not required to sign written declarations regarding conflicts at all as part of the scheme.

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