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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 32

Mr HAASE (2:35 PM) —My question is addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. Would the Deputy Prime Minister inform the House about how trade is contributing to the employment growth taking place in regional Australia, and what policies will ensure that this employment growth continues?

Mr VAILE (Minister for Trade) —I thank the member for Kalgoorlie for his question. Representing the largest regional seat in Australia, the member for Kalgoorlie recognises the importance of exports, particularly from his electorate, in terms of employment generation and growth in his electorate. Of course, one in five jobs in Australia is related to exports, but in regional Australia—and this is particularly so in the seat of Kalgoorlie—one in four jobs relies on exports for its maintenance. Australia’s export performance and sound economy are obviously benefiting regional and rural Australia. A lot of the growth that is coming out of that part of Western Australia, represented by the member for Kalgoorlie, is underpinning the economic and employment growth taking place in Australia today.

A report prepared for the Australian Local Government Association on the state of the regions supports the wellbeing and improvement in circumstances that exist in regional Australia today. It shows that our policies have helped regional Australia share in the nation’s ongoing economic prosperity, and a lot of that economic prosperity is being generated by the electorate of Kalgoorlie.

The report prepared by National Economics demonstrates on a couple of points that regions which suffered from low population growth over the 1990s are now seeing growth accelerate in their areas. That is good news in rural areas, where attractive lifestyles are available. Secondly, per capita employment has grown across regional Australia, with an above average decline in unemployment in what the report describes as rural lifestyle regions. Thirdly, and most importantly, net disposable household income has increased in most rural areas. These are very important statistics in terms of underpinning the economic strengthening that has taken place in regional Australia. It has certainly been an objective of our government over the last 10 years to put in place policies to reverse the general decline in the position of regional Australia in the overall national economy. This report supports the fact that the policies we have been putting in place are now working.

One of the interesting and more important recommendations in the report is the recognition of the clear benefits gained from extending quality broadband coverage into regional and rural Australia, as this will increase the capacity of enterprises to export and employ in regional Australia. It is well known that the government have announced that, as at 1 January 2006, we will invest $1.1 billion over the following four years in rolling out broadband capacity right across Australia into those regional areas, to continue to strengthen the economies and the opportunities in regional Australia and to build on what has been identified in this report as ‘the strengthening of regional Australia’.