News Corp Australia’s regional and Sunday newspapers have united to demand politicians give some much needed attention to regional Australia in a campaign that will run in the lead up to the federal election.
The Fair Go for Regional Australia campaign launched in the group’s Sunday newspapers at the weekend, highlighting the disparity in health, wealth, education, employment and quality of life that exists for around 6.8 million Australians who live outside of major cities.
This was followed on Monday with front page stories in News’ six regional titles showing how place of birth can greatly impact a person’s opportunities and quality of life.
“We want a recognition of the vital importance of the regions by politicians and decision makers at all levels of government so that it’s at least considered on equal terms on expenditure in other parts of Australia,” said Ben English, campaign leader and editor of Townsville Bulletin.
Mr English said his leadership of the campaign has been informed by the key principles and his experience of the Fair Go For The West campaign, run by The Daily Telegraph where he was formerly deputy editor.
“The parallels are uncanny. It’s a very similar narrative that Western Sydney was for so long just a forgotten, neglected, ignored region of Sydney,” Mr English said.
Fair Go For The West has achieved a number of victories since it launched in 2014, most recently securing a high-speed Western Sydney Rail link to connect with city with Sydney’s second airport.
The campaign also had two wins at the International News Media Awards in 2015. It won second place for ‘Best Use of an Event to Grow a News Brand’ and third place for ‘Best Public Relations or Community Service Campaign’.
Mr English said the campaign changed the whole tone of the conversation about Western Sydney and because it played host to a number of marginal seats, politicians could not afford to ignore the region any longer.
“All of a sudden it went from being perceived as a problem to being an amazing opportunity,” he said.
Mr English hopes the Fair Go For Regional Australia campaign will have an impact on the election plans of both the government and opposition.
“Our editorial policy on the federal election will be acutely affected by how politicians of all persuasions respond to community need,” he said.
Under the campaign, each paper will develop a policy priority list with demands relating to their respective regions.
“What we really want to do is not necessarily, prescriptively define that today. We’re still on a fact finding mission and we want to enlist all of our citizens as journalists for that,” Mr English said.
Gold Coast Bulletin has already started a wish-list of demands as part of the campaign, which includes the rollout of the National Broadband Network in time for the Commonwealth Games and a continuation of its light rail campaign.
Fair Go For Regional Australia was born out of increased collaboration between News’ regional papers that pre-dates the establishment of the publisher’s new regional division.
“We started getting together more regularly and discussing what was going on for us in our communities …. and there’s a very strong common theme and that was the sense that regional Australia is the forgotten step-child of Australian policy life,” Mr English said.
The campaign has a strong online presence with its national Facebook page attracting more a thousand likes in less than a week. It is also looking for user-generated content.
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