Regional seats on knife-edge after Federal Election

REGIONAL Australia has changed the rules for the country's next election, with seats outside capital cities driving the knife-edge poll result and drawing focus away from metro areas.

Analysis of poll results show two-thirds of the seats that swung to Labor or are in doubt were outside capital cities, destroying the Coalition's winning margin from 2013.

Regional Australia Institute CEO Jack Archer said those living outside metropolitan areas had sent a strong message to the major parties.

"Regional seats and areas which have the real economic challenges are where the swings and move away from Labor and the Coalition have occurred," Mr Archer said.

"Whoever forms government will need to listen to the message being sent by regional Australia."

That message aligns with the Fair Go for Regional Australia that this masthead has been running along with other Australian Regional Media and NewsCorp titles.

"If (the government) don't listen we'll end up in a situation where a really big number of people will not have confidence in the way government is working," Mr Archer said.

"If we don't do something we'll have more elections like this... that's a real risk and won't do as much good in the longer term."

Mr Archer said both sides had failed to build an economic message outside capital cities.

"The thing that's missing is a real narrative about what happens in places like Townsville, Rockhampton or Geelong with big economic issues," he said.

"Overall the economy might do okay but if most of the gains go to the big cities then regional people won't be any better off.

"The challenge for whoever becomes Prime Minister is to form something a bit more substantive for those areas."

Despite the swing towards Labor, former Member for Maranoa Bruce Scott said the election was an "exceptional outcome" for the LNP.

"While there's been a swing away, we still returned 21 seats to the LNP. In New South Wales we returned all of the National Party seats and we even secured a seat in Victoria," Mr Scott said.

"It changes from state-to-state, but in Queensland parts of our seats have always been marginal.

"No one takes these seats for granted; if you don't hold regional seats, you will not be returned to government."

Regional Capitals Australia chairman and Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said while the major parties had focused on Western Sydney, regional Australia had become the real battleground.

"Historically regional seats have not been marginal and this gives everyone a big chance to drive the policy making and focus in Canberra now," Mr Van Styn said.

"People in regional areas have spoken en masse that they want health, education, connectivity and livability akin to their capital cities counterparts.

"Any politician who ignores that message from this election would be doing so at their own peril."

Independent regional MPs will also be crucial no matter what the result, with Andrew Wilkie and Bob Katter set to play crucial roles in the next parliament.

"Almost all the political parties have undoubtedly ignored regional Australia and just as surely it was one of the many factors in people's minds when voting last Saturday," Mr Wilkie said.

"The simple fact is that Australia is rich and clever enough for all Australians, no matter where they live, to enjoy a reasonable level of infrastructure and essential services.

"However despite this regional, rural and remote Australians often have to put up with substandard infrastructure and services and in particular poor health care and information technology.

"Politicians have become much too capital city centric, if only because that's where the majority of electorates are to be found."


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