Budget delivering for regional Australia

Budget delivering for regional Australia Main Image

23 November 2022

I'm proud to rise today as a minister in the Albanese Labor government to talk about our successful first six months in government and how our budget is delivering on our commitment to the Australian public and, in particular, those living in regional Australia.

Throughout these six months we have consistently delivered, putting into action our plans that the Australian people voted for. Our October budget was no different. It is responsible. It's solid. It's suited to the times we're in. But we know that these are challenging times. A substantial global slowdown, high inflation, rising interest rates and a succession of natural disasters are putting pressure on Australians and on our economy. Against this backdrop, we are still delivering cost-of-living relief in a targeted way. We're investing in a stronger and more resilient economy. We are doing what those opposite talked about a lot but failed to do, and we are beginning the hard yards of budget repair.

We can't clean up the mess overnight, but we are working every day to build a better future for Australians, no matter where they live. Like almost 30 per cent of Australians, I call regional Australia home. That's why I'm incredibly proud that our budget contains more than 760 initiatives for regional communities and regional industries. I know that our regional communities are not the same—they are as diverse as the people that call them home—but they face very similar challenges.

We have a vision for regional Australia, one where our regional communities benefit from all of our policies, whether it's increased jobs in the renewable energy sector, access to secure housing, better connectivity or strong, locally led solutions. Our vision looks beyond the election cycle. It looks beyond electorates and postcodes. After 10 years of rorts from those opposite, we are stepping up and prioritising fair and equitable funding for our regions.

Out budget has committed $1 billion over three years towards regional funding programs: the Growing Regions Program and the Regional Precincts and Partnerships Program. These programs will be delivered in a way that is fair, has integrity and is accountable. We know our local governments are front and centre in servicing our regional communities. As a former mayor, I know all too well the difference federal funding can make for our regional communities. I know that the difference between a regional community thriving and one just surviving goes well beyond efficient roads and rubbish. That's why this government has committed to re-establishing the Council of Australian Local Governments as an opportunity for ministers to hear directly from the local government sector about the issues impacting them. In addition to re-establishing the Council of Australian Local Governments, Labor is committed to putting local government on National Cabinet and on the Council on Federal Financial Relations once a year. I'm meeting with local government ministers this Friday, which will provide a platform for the states and territories to discuss the major challenges impacting local governments across the nations. All levels of government need to work together to help communities and implement their local solutions, and our government is committed to doing that in a fair and transparent way.

Over the last six months, I've met with multiple local government and regional development representatives from all parts of Australia to discuss regional needs. Right across our country now, our regional communities are in crisis due to flooding. My thoughts remain with those communities who are working as volunteers, councilworkers, emergency personnel and community on the ground, doing an incredible job day and night preparing, responding and cleaning up from these disasters. Sadly, it is often our regional communities who bear the brunt of natural disasters, which is why our government has committed to preparing our communities for future disasters through the Disaster Ready Fund, investing $1 billion on disaster risk, reduction and resilience.

Unlike previous governments, we understand that supporting regional Australia goes well beyond the basics of grant funding. We know that regional development and regional Australians deserve so much more than that. We need fast and reliable internet and good mobile phone connectivity, which is why the government are investing heavily in the NBN and mobile phone coverage so that rural and remote communities have access. We need affordable housing in our communities, which is why the government prioritised the Housing Australia Future Fund and the Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee. We need good educational opportunities, and that's why the government are giving priority to regional Australians in those 20,000 additional Commonwealth supported places at university.

We know that at the heart of strong regional communities people are there. We need to make sure that our budget supports all Australians through skills and training, through Medicare, through the NDIS and through child care. We are committed to ensuring regional Australia is at the centre of our nation's growth and at the forefront of our agenda. We are a government that will leave no one behind.