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A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.

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  1. Ikonoclast
    September 13th, 2017 at 12:08 | #1

    Having just returned from an extended holiday in the Outback, Top End and Gulf Country I am struck by the lack of development out there and up there in 2017. I am not entirely naive, I hope, having traveled around Australia and worked in some remote localities circa mid 1970s. What strikes me is the relative lack of progress since that time. While our major cities and coastal strips have boomed, remote Australia seems stuck, demographically and in other ways. My implicit expectations might be invalid of course. To expect demographic expansion in the remote regions might be entirely wrong-headed.

    Longreach can serve as a good example in this discussion. The relative importance of the Longreach district circa the 1930s was much greater than it is today. Without checking statistics, I hazard the guess that the Longreach district played a much greater role proportionally in generating GDP that it does today. Primary industries were much more important then. The idea that an innovative, cutting-edge business (like QANTAS in the 1920s and 1930s) could come out of a remote locality today, outside of primary industry, now seems to be highly unlikely. Longreach’s population peaked in the 1940s IIRC and its population today is no greater than the in the 1970s. We know haw much Brisbane etc. have grown since then or we can look it up.

    What do remote localities offer economically? My guess is agricultural industries and mining. Then there is tourism (more a consumption exercise than a productive industry). With modern technology and communications, remote towns simply do not need very many people. They are distribution and support centers for stations and farms, for mines and for travelers and tourists. Aside from that, what’s out there economically and what could ever induce more people to live there? Should we even be worried about inducing more people to live there?

    To disclose, while traveling we did not tow a caravan. We stayed at motels, cabins and roadhouses. The advent of the modern caravan towing era, for they are legion outback and many are huge, double-axle affairs, has had some interesting and not very good effects I believe. Fuel costs, on my estimate, are increased by 50% to 100%. The outback highways are not clogged but they are certainly impeded by caravans. Road-trains and trucks, meaning road transport, are slowed by them thus increasing costs. Outback accommodation is less available and more expensive as a result of caravans. All the money spent on a caravan is money not spent on outback accommodation. The income of the towns is lower as a result unless many caravan travelers otherwise would not travel at all. From an economic standpoint, fixed accommodation at towns and a much lower national spend on caravans would see much more money flow into outback towns, IMO. The legacy of the caravan-towing boomers is not going to help the Outback long term. Town infrastructure decays rather than being augmented by the caravan spend.

    What development model does remote Australia need? I don’t know but the current model is not working. A lot of western and outback towns seem to be stagnating if not dying. Should we pursue a consolidated regional centers model where selected centers are upgraded and the others de-populated and removed returning these town areas to natural habitat or rural use? Large current modern vehicles (SUVs and 4WDs) can easily be fitted (or retrofitted) to safely cover 1,000 kms to 1,500 kms per tank of fuel on the highways. Road transport ditto. Plus we should revive the train systems more. Significant towns need be no closer together than say 500 kms. Put re-supply depots and roadhouses at 250 kms and proper rest-stops at 125 kms (where there is nothing else) and link it properly with service vehicles and service personnel… I would think that a lot more efficient and safer than what we see out west and outback at the moment. It’s a dog’s breakfast out there… and I blame a failure in national planning, not the locals.