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Thursday, 27 June 2013
Page: 7270

Regional Australia

Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (14:14): My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, in agreements reached at the start of the 43rd Parliament regional Australia made its way onto the map, with $9.9 billion for regional Australia, $1.8 billion for the regional Health and Hospitals Fund and $500 million for a regional round of an education infrastructure fund. For the 44th Parliament, as we go from the period of governing to electioneering, will you commit to matching that for regional Australia or even beating it?

Mrs Mirabella: Go on, double it!

The SPEAKER: The member for Indi does not have the call; the Prime Minister does.

Mr RUDD (Griffith—Prime Minister) (14:14): I thank the honourable member for his question. I apologise to him for not having been present for his valedictory speech. He has served his constituents well in this place. He has delivered to his constituents that which he committed to them locally—his schools and his health services—and I recall well with the Deputy Prime Minister attending various ceremonies in the electorate concerned with the Pacific Highway. When you look at the plan which the government has in place for the completion of the dual carriageway of the Pacific Highway, one thing that we will be able to look back at with pride as a government and a parliament, and with you as the local member, is the number of lives that will be saved as a result of the necessary work on the Pacific Highway. That is bread-and-butter stuff for people who travel from Sydney to Brisbane along the Pacific.

The honourable member asked me to give a forward commitment for the next parliament in terms of particular allocations and, I think, the quantity of them. I am not in that business. However, regional Australia is etched deep into my heart. I grew up in a region. I grew up in a country town. I understand what it was like not to have a local doctor. I understand what it was like not to have a local dentist. I understand, from my experience as a kid growing up, what it was not to have secure housing, either. I say, therefore, to the honourable member that I am acutely conscious of those needs. That is why I would say, in response to the honourable member's question: regional Australia is writ large not just in my own heart but in the heart of this entire government.

That is because working people live right across Australia and not just in big cities, not just in regional cities but in small towns as well. They deserve the same infrastructure as the city folks get, and that is why, in part, we are delivering the National Broadband Network across regional Australia. No discriminatory rules, no leaving the bush out, no leaving regional Australia out, and the honourable member's constituents will be well served by that innovation as well. In conclusion, I thank the honourable member for his great service to the parliament. I wish him and his family all the very best for the future.