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Monday, 30 May 1994
Page: 860


Senator McGAURAN (5.07 p.m.) —I join my colleagues Senator Ian Macdonald and Senator Panizza in this matter of public importance which refers to:

The lack of genuine interest and commitment in regional Australia by the Federal Government.

Referring to the refusal to allow Senator Bolkus to incorporate the document, I think that is fair enough because Senator Bolkus held the document up as coalition policy. It does not have that status, so he was misleading the chamber from the time he held it up. For that reason alone it does not deserve to be incorporated.

  Following Senator Childs's address to the Senate, I think Australians, particularly regional Australians, would have great cause for concern. This government does not know where regional Australia begins or ends, yet it goes about producing report after report, document after document, and creating bureaucracies for regional Australia. Of course, it channels millions of dollars into regional Australia, yet incredibly in this case this government has no idea of the definition of regional Australia. Senator Childs just highlighted that.

  The commonsense definition of regional Australia refers to those parts outside major capital cities—that is, outside Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, et cetera. That is the commonsense understanding. Even Gough Whitlam understood that. He picked out Albury-Wodonga as a major regional centre. Also, regional Australia extends into far outer regions—for example, Ouyen in the wheat belt, in the Mallee area.

  This government takes the view that inner city areas in Melbourne, for example, are classified as regional Australia. It takes that view from the discredited Kelty report. I refer to page 55 of the Kelty report which refers to inner Melbourne as part of regional Australia when quoting the director of the Inner Metropolitan Regional Association. One only needs the word `regional' to gain funds from this government. The director said:

Our vision is to retain our leadership as a livable, sustainable and equitable city. It will also be a dynamic commercial, industrial, intellectual and cultural capital of the world.

What a great dreamer! Of course, he would have been able to achieve those things if he could convince the government that he belonged to regional Australia—and he did. If we turn to the government's white paper, Working Australia, where it has its regional strategy, we can see that that particular gentleman and others in the inner city of Melbourne convinced this government to channel millions of dollars of scarce resources—which should have been channelled into real regional Australia—into the Domain tunnel project of inner Melbourne.

  All that serves to do is relieve the pressure of peak hour traffic in the inner city of Melbourne, for heaven's sake. It would be a great help to the people of Mount Waverley but it is not going to help the people in the wheat belts of Albury-Wodonga. Quite frankly, it would not even rank as one of the top 500 priorities for regional Australia.

  We have a government that cannot even grasp the definition of regional Australia. Worse, we have a Deputy Prime Minister, a minister for regional development, who does not believe there is even a problem—who has no concern about regional Australia at all. On 17 May 1994, when the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Howe, addressed the Building Owners and Managers Association of Queensland on the government's regional strategies he said—correctly—that there are wide variations in economic performance between states and even wider variations between regions. He said that the Kelty task force and, more recently, the McKinsey study highlighted these different performances. Then he said that they also served to debunk the myth that regional Australia is in decline.

  I would suggest that the Deputy Prime Minister, the minister for regional Australia, has not been out to the drought-stricken areas of New South Wales and Queensland, has not been part of western Victoria's wool collapse, and has not seen the banks, post offices, railway lines, hospitals and schools closing all around regional Australia. Australians, particularly those in regional Australia, have reason to be greatly concerned when they have a government, which cannot even define regional Australia, channelling millions of dollars into the inner city of Melbourne and does not even believe that there is a problem in regional Australia.

  Time does not permit me to go on and totally debunk the government's working nation and regional strategy policy. Senator Ian MacDonald and Senator Panizza have already raised the issues of petrol pricing and industrial relations in regional Australia which show that a gap has opened up in the last 10 years that this government has reigned—a gap between the living standards of those in regional Australia and those in the capital cities. It is a gap fast looking like that which has opened up between the North and the South in America.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Herron)—Order! The time has expired for consideration of the matter of public importance.