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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 499


Mr BROADBENT (McMillan) (10:45): I have great respect for the member for Throsby, but today he either shows a lack of respect for the regional public or is delusional in his response to the budgetary circumstances that existed when funds were offered to regional communities—funds that, at worst, were a premeditated attempt to mislead regional communities as a base political endeavour. I had that experience myself in the Latrobe Valley. Good members who have now left this parliament came down and made offers to the regional community of Latrobe Valley for a low-carbon future. They came down and said, 'We will fund you so that the Latrobe Valley will continue to exist.' In one weekend all funding for the low-carbon future was to cease. Why would that be? Because there was not one seat to be one in Gippsland. That is why. For base political reasons those projects were abandoned, but let me say to the House today that we in the Latrobe Valley will not be forgotten. It was bad enough that the previous government offered chocolates to regional communities without funding them, but what they have done to single-parent households, to low-income student loans and to regional hospitality, crippled by archaic penalty rate laws, is unforgiveable.

We intend to do the right thing by regional communities by saying to those regional communities that we will not make you an offer we cannot fund. We will not make you a promise we cannot fulfil, as the previous government made promise after promise but they were unfulfilled promises because the money was never there. The former Labor government made promises that a fiscally responsible party could not keep, and so it was that rounds 5 and 5B of the Regional Australia Development Fund were put on hold.

Like many other electorates, my electorate of McMillan was stunned; disappointed people were left wondering where the money had gone and why projects would not be funded as promised. The simple answer was, of course, that the money never existed. The Labor Party in government promised more than 950 projects, valued at $150 million, in RDAF round 5. All round 5 projects were announced after 1 June 2013 and, as such, they were considered to be Labor Party election campaign commitments, rather than projects that had been through normal due diligence processes and deemed worthy of Commonwealth assistance. They were empty pledges from a broke government, using the promises of money it did not have to buy votes. The lack of commitment to project delivery was evident in rounds 2, 3 and 4 of the RDAF program, as there were more than 50 projects that did not have funding agreements in place—even though some had been announced more than two years previously.

To ensure that the government meets its fiscal obligations, it has decided not to fund these projects. It was a hard decision and one that has caused angst. However, governing is not just about being in power but using power wisely. I would remind the member for Throsby that it is not the office that he holds but the outcome that is produced that is important. In not funding these, we have a future. The government continues to support communities across regional Australia, including through its new Community Development Grants Program. The coalition looks forward to delivering our election commitments and to continuing to engage with local communities on their infrastructure and regional development needs throughout the term of this government.

The great Martin Luther King may have had a dream, but I have one too. Mine, of course, is somewhat more humble, but, for the people of my electorate of McMillan who share in this dream, it is important nonetheless. My dream is to see my rural seat on an equal footing with those in the city. As the member for Throsby mentioned, there is that great divide between the rural and metropolitan electorates.

As any rural politician knows, infrastructure funding is essential. It is a means of driving not only the economy but also positive social change in our communities. On my wish list for McMillan, roads, sporting clubs, childcare centres, hospitals, marine rescue services, Centrelink outlets and even post offices all jostle for priority. I do not know how much will be in the pot in the future, but McMillan's needs are great.

The West Gippsland Hospital in Warragul, the very town where my electorate office is located, services a population that is growing day by day and also services people who are coming from the city out to the country for their health needs. We could direct some funds towards it—yet a piecemeal response will not do: it needs to be rebuilt, and this will be an eight-year plan costing $243 million—or there could be the glorified political decision on behalf of the member for McMillan to give him $245 million for a brand-new hospital at Warragul; I think that would go down well!

The Port Welshpool jetty, which was almost destroyed by fire some years back, has been crying out for funding for years. A bright future awaits, with $3 million needed to transform not just a historic landmark but the fortunes of that region. It will mean that the school will progress, businesses will progress, child care will progress and the pub will progress. And it will mean disability access for fishing, which is sorely needed—I could go on. It ticks every box for a community that needs rebuilding.

The Korumburra Integrated Children's Centre would take pride of place in the centre of a bustling town that remains one of McMillan's true success stories. A dedicated committee has a dream that I share: quality child care for a community that has a bright future. Every community needs a quality childcare centre for that delivery. The childcare centre would meet a crucial need for families in Korumburra for child care, kindergarten, out-of-school-hours care, maternal and childhood services and specialist children's services. This project has been thoroughly investigated and planned with ongoing community involvement. In addition to the land, South Gippsland Shire Council will commit $2 million to the development of the centre. Parents have contributed $100,000. However, a further $3 million is sought.

The Pakenham soccer ground could use $1 million to continue its development. The marine rescue team at Port Welshpool needs a new boat. We need duplicated roads, but we need especially the rebuilding of local roads: we had the drought, then we had the rain, then we had more rain, and now the roads have broken up. The South Gippsland Highway, Leongatha bypass, Warragul-Drouin highway duplication and Warragul-Korumburra road are all crying out for money, along with a lot of other roads.

Moe, a town close to my heart, that has been given funding for a railway precinct redevelopment, is deserving of more still. I would love to see a Medicare office and post office in the town. Honestly, I could stand here speaking on the subject of McMillan's wants and needs all day. I must stop now. I am mindful of the clock.

In closing I would like to say: anything that elevates the fortunes of our rural electorates is something worth its weight in gold. The Regional Development Australia Fund may not be a panacea for McMillan's shortfalls, but I look forward to seeing what it delivers. We need communications infrastructure. I do not think there is a member of parliament in this place that would not desire better communications in their area and better roads, as these things are planned and developed for our communities.

I know that the member for Throsby is thinking, 'Your desires are greater than any government can fulfil for all our electorates,' because, as to what I have just outlined in my electorate, and as to city electorates, we could all run up a bill on behalf of our government that is very, very high, just on the infrastructure needs of our communities. Every regional member of parliament knows the benefits of infrastructure development—be it a hospital, telecommunications, or roads—because development of infrastructure enhances business opportunities. When we enhance business opportunities we therefore enhance the opportunities for our children to get jobs locally, for our families to live locally, for our aged care to be enhanced, for our healthcare services broadly to be advanced, and for our children's centres to be advanced.

Every one of the members of this House works in the best interest of their communities, and those with a regional voice need to be heard louder and stronger even when it comes to the minister at the table's black spots program for mobile phones. There is nothing worse than when you are in the middle of a crucial conversation in a regional area and you go round the corner and the conversation is over. Now we have a regional black spots program. It is not going to fulfil every need in every community, but it will change the way some communities have access, especially for their emergency care.

I commend the motion to the House not because of the detrimental words of the member for Throsby in regard to this government's approach but because it raises the issue of infrastructure development in regional communities.