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Thursday, 15 May 2014
Page: 3909


Mr COULTON (ParkesThe Nationals Chief Whip) (14:26): My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. Will the minister outline how the budget will deliver a stronger and viable future for regional Australia?

Mr TRUSS (Wide BayDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) (14:26): The honourable member for Parkes understands full well how important it is to have strong regional economies if we want to have a strong nation. When our country is strong, our regions are strong. Unfortunately, the regions have suffered from the last six years of Labor governments—Labor governments which cared little about regional Australia. Promises were made, many funded by a mining tax were therefore essentially unfunded because the mining tax did not raise any money. But this budget sets a new path for Australia, a path to deliver a sustainable future for our nation. A significant part of delivering that sustainable future is the investment in infrastructure that the Treasurer has just referred to—a $50 billion Commonwealth contribution towards infrastructure expenditure of at least a $125 billion. This is a commitment that makes a difference everywhere in this country—significantly in our cities where a large number of major projects have been announced, and also in the regional communities.

There is a $2.5 billion commitment in this budget to the Roads to Recovery program, extending the program into the future. In 2015-16, there will be a double payment to local governments across Australia to help them with their road and streets works. In addition to that, there is a $565 million investment to fix dangerous spots on our roads—the accident spots, the black spots—many of which are in regional Australia and in country towns. There is a further $300 million for our new Bridges Renewal Program to fix some of those bridges which are falling apart and can no longer carry heavy loads, preventing the school bus from taking children to school. We will be fixing those projects in consultation with our communities.

We will also be delivering on specific projects in regional communities through our Community Grants program. This includes even picking up some of the projects announced by the previous government which they had not funded, they had not contracted. We are doing the right things for those communities to fix and deliver the projects that Labor had not properly funded. In addition to that, there will be our own $1 billion National Stronger Regions Fund. There is $100 million for mobile phones. We are grateful to the Minister for Communications for getting on with that task of filling in the gaps. We will make sure that regional Australia is back on the agenda and we will be listening tonight to see whether Labor has learned anything about regional Australia in the opposition's budget reply.