I was in Canberra last week with local representatives from Regional Development Australia and the Pilbara University Centre to attend the 2021 Regions Rising Conference.

Run by the Regional Australia Institute, some 300 delegates from all over the country attended to look at ways to improve liveability and economic prosperity in the regions. The conference featured speeches and presentations from the Deputy Prime Minister, industry leaders, government ministers and various individuals with research results and lived experience relevant to this broad subject.

Being in Canberra was also a good opportunity to meet with federal ministers and their advisors to discuss key issues for us, including our labour challenges, the inequity of the Fringe Benefit Tax, our outrageous insurance cost, housing shortages, defence and much more.

The City is engaging with the three other Pilbara councils and would like to establish a Designated Area Migration Agreement, which essentially allows immigrants to be brought here to fill vacancies in positions where Australian staff just cannot be found.

We also believe all businessesin the Pilbara – not just the large ones – should receive full exemption from the FBT so that small business can supply housing and other necessary benefits to their employees free of this onerous and unfair penalty.

We were pleased to be able to meet the new Norwegian Ambassador who is hoping, as we are, that Yara can obtain grants to assist with their world-first renewable hydrogen project. We also caught up with two professors from the Australian National University who are developing new hydrogen technologies. We recognised the synergies between this research and the heavy industrial uses for renewable hydrogen across the Pilbara.

The conference provided a forum for some very fruitful discussions and positive outcomes and it was a privilege to attend and advocate on behalf of the City of Karratha.