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Labor comes up short again for regional Australia



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Media Statement - T30/98 Page 1 of 2

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ajMMOKWMOW CCPAgmENT Of TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT!

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O th e r M e d ia S ta te m e n ts A sso c ia te d

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Regional Development. Transport and

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20 M arch 1998 T30/98

LABOR COMES UP SHORT AGAIN FOR REGIONAL AUSTRALIA

The M inister for Regional Developm ent, Territories and Local Government, Alex Somlyay MP described Labor's National Conference decisions on regional A ustralia as short changing, yet again people and com m unities who live outside Australia's m ajor cities. The policy contains no specific funding com mitments.

"Labor is engaging in political nostalgia in Hobart pretending that fresh packaging o f failed policies o f the past for regions is the way ahead," Mr Somlyay said.

"Simon Crean and the ALP have learnt nothing from their total rejection by voters at the 1996 election in regional and rural electorates across Australia. They have com e up short, yet again with regional Australians following the Keating mould.

"O f the 63 seats classified by the AEC as non-metropolitan, the Howard Government and the independents hold 52 seats. Labor was so totally rejected that it fails to hold a House o f Representatives seat in over h alf the landmass o f Australia. There is no ALP Federal seat north o f the Brisbane line.

"The governm ent is not really surprised that the ALP has suddenly becom e very interested in Australia's regions when they have no regional seats in South Australia, Queensland and W A with only one in NSW.

"Labor's attempt to forge a new bond with regional voters in the lead up to the next federal election is hollow. Regional Australia was under perform ing under the previous Labor government. They ignored the infrastructure needs o f regions like roads, ports, rail and the extension o f the inform ation/com m unication online services. Labor im plem ented policies like the Superannuation Guarantee Levy that led to a flight o f capital from regional Australia.

"The m em ory o f their 13 years o f neglect o f regional and rural economic development and regional affairs issues remains the dom inant factor. This new Labor policy pledge is just not credible and Labor's grab for support in regions will just not wash," M r Somlyay said.

The K eating Labor governm ent's Regional Developm ent Programm e (RDO's) rejected by voters contained elements, which severely checked regions economic growth. · Labor prom ised regional developm ent funding o f $150 m illion over four years and yet spent only $40 million on regional

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Media Statement - T30/98 Page 2 of 2

projects · Labor spent regional money in Australia's capital cities · Labor spent 50% or $70 million o f the regional developm ent m oney on bureaucracy and administration · Labor duplicated delivery o f regional policy by creating new organisations when local councils and regional groupings were by-passed

"Simon Crean is prom ising to roll out these discredited ideas again from this failed policy approach," the M inister said.

The ALP prom ise to boost the num ber o f public sector jobs in areas identified as being hard hit with long term unem ploym ent, particularly in rural and regional Australia is w ithout credibility. It was Labor that pushed youth unem ploym ent in regions to as high 50% during their 13 years in office. The m ajority o f public sector job cuts since 1991 to the present were ordered by Labor Ministers.

M r Somlyay said the regional development policy resolutions debated in Hobart focus on certain favoured States, creating an equal number o f forgotten States. This is turning back the clock to Labor's approach under Hawke/ Keating governments o f favouring special sections o f the Australian com m unity over others.

"All A ustralians in regions benefit from our whole o f government approach including the South Australians and Tasm anians and people from Northern Australia. Victoria, New South W ales, W estern A ustralia and my State o f Queensland will be relieved when the electorate rejects Labor's divisive plan for regional policy.

"Under the Coalition w e have successfully adopted a whole o f governm ent approach to regional policy. Federal portfolio areas, including transport, social security, defence and small business must take into account their policy impact on regional areas right across the nation," said Mr Somlyay.

He said the H oward governm ent has funded to date $2 billion o f initiatives across portfolios that impact on regional people. The Natural Heritage Trust ($1.6b over 6 years), the Regional Telecom m unications Infrastructure Fund ($250m over 5 years), the $ 1.26b industry statement, and the A griculture-A dvancing Australia package ($500m) are targeted to all A ustralians in all States and Territories as is the role o f the national government.

"Further evidence that the Howard government won't let regions down with our offer o f $300m in trade insurance to exporters in regions affected by the Asian crisis.

"The ALP has no representation and no genuine interest in regions and this policy platform touted today will do nothing to convince regional A ustralians that Labor has changed its attitude that regions are boring and can be overlooked," said M r Somlyay.

M edia inquiries: Peter Cassuben (02) 6277 7680

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Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600 ♦ Telephone (02)6277 7680 ♦ Facsimile (02) 6273 4126 ψ COM MeKWAOM ΡΤΡΜΤΜΓΝΓ Of TRANSPORT AND W j

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