In the bowels of Canberra sits a report gathering dust that has the potential to change the face of regional Australia.
Released in June 2018, Regions at the Ready: Investing in Australia's Future was a project championed by then LNP Groom MP John McVeigh and Independent Indi MP Cathy McGowan.
On Tuesday the cobwebs were briefly blown off when this report became a topic of conversation at a women in agriculture breakfast in Toowoomba.
Whether voters in the seat are aware of its existence or not, there was a certain kind of symmetry in Independent Groom candidate Suzie Holt pledging to also champion the report if elected.
Ms Holt made the commitment to push for the report to move to the white paper stage at Gip's Restaurant in front of an intimate gathering of 20 from some of Toowoomba's leading business, research and industry groups.
The social worker is one of a number of Independent candidates across Australia aiming to replicate the grassroots 'Voices' campaign model, which was established in Ms McGowan's Indi electorate.
A passion for agriculture
Ms McGowan shared her journey from being an 'invisible' woman in agriculture, to an advocate with the Australian Women in Agriculture movement, and representing the sector during her time in federal parliament.
"I was a daughter of dairy farmers in Victoria and I wanted to be a farmer when I grew up," Ms McGowan said.
"But that wasn't going to happen, Mum and Dad said, 'you're going to become a teacher'.
"So I became a teacher but as soon as I had enough money I bought a farm and I still live on that little farm."
She readily admits she didn't know about farming and like many women had been raised doing the 'inside jobs'.
But sometimes, success is about reframing how challenges are tackled.
"I had to learn about sheep, so that was my first introduction, I went and did some work experience with my uncle who was a sheep farmer," Ms McGowan said.
"He made the famous comment to me that 'girls could never be farmers'.
"Why not I asked Uncle Gerald and he said, 'well, you'll never be a farmer unless you can lift a flyblown sheep on the back of a ute.
"I remember thinking at the time he was absolutely right, farming was about strength.
"But a friend of mine was with me at the time and she said in my defence, 'Cathy will farm in such a way that her sheep will never get flystruck'."
'We need a plan'
During her time with Australian Women in Agriculture Ms McGowan discovered while plans existed for certain areas like research and development corporations, there was no overarching plan for agriculture.
She said there also wasn't a plan covering how agriculture intersects with education, business and research.
"When I was working in Women in Agriculture I was constantly looking for the plan," she said.
"You know, the plan for agriculture, but there's no agricultural plan.
"What made me so frustrated is there was also no plan for regional Australia, so it was not just agriculture."
Once she arrived in Canberra she started finding colleagues with similar interests and found a surprising ally in Malcolm Turnbull.
At the time there was a delicate balance of power held in parliament and this was also an opportunity for Ms McGowan to agitate for a vision for agriculture and the regions.
"I could not believe that it would take me, little Cathy McGowan from Indigo Valley to point out to the Prime Minister of Australia that there's still no government plan but there is a plan for defence," she said.
"So there's a national defence strategy; they've got a commitment from the government that 2 per cent of the GDP (gross domestic product) every year goes to defence.
"I go and say, 'we need one of those for ag, we need one of those for the regions, and 2pc of the GDP would be really nice'."
Mr Turnbull agreed to an inquiry into regional development, which culminated in the Regions at the Ready report.
While it received a positive response from government, like so many others reports, 'it died'.
Ms McGowan said the political will to progress it was not there, especially after she and Mr McVeigh left parliament.
But in her eyes it is the blueprint to enable regions like Toowoomba and Albury-Wodonga to thrive.
Region on the rise
As Australia's second largest inland city, Toowoomba is where the majority of voters in Groom are situated.
The seat has been a stronghold for the LNP in its various iterations since it was formed in 1984.
In 2020 the seat went to a by-election following Mr McVeigh's resignation.
Businessman and mining engineer Garth Hamilton secured 67 per cent of the vote on a two-party preferred basis but there was a 3pc swing against the LNP.
Ms Holt said regional centres like Toowoomba often operated in silos and at times this led to a great deal of duplication.
She said a plan would help unite sectors in regional Australia like agriculture, health and education.
"I'm a big picture girl and I can see this opportunity and I can see if we have this vision we could run with it," she said.
"Our region is run on businesses, innovation and entrepreneurship but let's bring them together."
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