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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4753


Mr LYONS (Bass) (14:51): My question is to the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts. How has the budget delivered on the government's commitment to regional Australia and what are the practical outcomes of this budget for communities in regional areas?

Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (14:52): I thank the member for Bass for his question. I was with him in Scottsdale not long after the budget talking up another great initiative that will see the diversification of that economy and also taking the opportunity to demonstrate the great commitment that this government has made to regional Australia—a commitment that, I might say, did not get one mention in the Leader of the Opposition's budget speech-in-reply.

This is a government that has made the greatest ever commitment to regional Australia in the history of this country. Last year's budget saw the biggest ever financial commitment to regions—$4.3 billion over the course of the four years—and this budget built on that. What we saw was $475 million allocated to regional hospitals and those announced in the budget and $110 million to ensure that dentists and GPs are encouraged into regional areas. There was also the significant slice of the healthcare budget that will go to regional Australia as well as the significant assistance to families in regional Australia through the schoolkids bonus and the family payments.

I also say that, because we have now passed the minerals resource rent tax, the regions will now be able to experience a further three Regional Development Australia Fund funding rounds. We have announced the first, which was $150 million and which leveraged more than three times that in terms of investment. We are about to announce the second round of $200 million, but the final three rounds would not be there if the minerals resource rent tax had not been passed. Those that sit opposite will abolish that when they come in. In other words, they will cut the very means by which regions in this country will benefit.

We on this side have always understood the importance of regions. Whenever they have come to office, they have either abolished the department of regional development or scrapped the program. They have even gone so far as to say that they have no constitutional role in the Commonwealth for regional development. That is what the opposition stands for—they are anti the regions. Those regions which see the opportunities going forward for economic diversification as well sustainability as well as a fair go for the families out there will only get it from Labor governments. This budget has underpinned those credentials yet again and exposed those who sit opposite as not being supporters of the regions whatsoever.