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Regional Partnerships launch, Parliament House.

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WT06/2003 26 June 2003



26 JUNE 2003


Thank you very much, Ross. I'd now like to introduce the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, the Honourable Wilson Tuckey.


Thank you, Lesley, and ladies and gentlemen, it is with considerable pleasure that I participate in this ceremony this morning and commence by thanking my senior Minister, John Anderson, for the wonderful team effort that has occurred between the officers of mine and his in achieving an outcome which has taken a considerable amount of consideration and is in my mind a revolution that will only benefit everybody. We've had to think it through, we've had to look for benefits, and I think we certainly have achieved that.

Ladies and gentlemen, Regional Partnerships is the evolutionary result of the Howard government's regional assistance initiatives. These included Regional Solutions program, Regional Assistance Program and the associated Area Consultative Committees that came with that program, Rural Transaction Centres, Dairy RAP as

we know it, Eden RAP as we know it, and numerous smaller but more specific area specific initiatives.

Regional Partnerships is designed to incorporate the best of each of those programs into a single user friendly package that will also include some new initiatives. For instance, initial assessment post formal lodgement will be conducted by the Area Consultative Committees in each region, and I think there's some 56 of those. And potential applicants will consequently be encouraged to involve that body in the preparation process of their application.

This is a major change on past practice under regional assistance programs where each ACC had a little budget for their district. They have no such budget, but they have entitlement to make recommendations within what will become, after the forthcoming financial year, a $64 million a year program. Arguably they could get the lot. But I've got to say to them that they cannot take a parochial view. They've got to take a national view because we will be relying very heavily on their advice in the initial stages as to the applications that should be improved.

This process is designed to substantially reduce the assessment period, but will still involve DOTARS and the Minister in the final approval. I would like however to thank and congratulate at this stage the retiring members of a number of various

advisory committees that have previously assessed such applications and advised myself or Minister Anderson as the appropriate Minister.

Another very significant new initiative referred to a moment ago has been the inclusion for a general right of regional private enterprise to seek assistance under Regional Partnerships. This practice has already been road tested under the Diary RAP initiative and, in a smaller context, the Eden RAP initiative, and they are very, very important programs. I was personally involved as Forestry Minister in the Eden RAP proposal where three and a half million of government initiative specifically made available to private enterprise produced over $12 million worth of investment and as best we can assess is returning $1.4 million a year to the government in savings of welfare payments.

So, as you can see, not only in a short period will we have recovered the taxpayers' investment; more importantly we have 100 people working and paying taxes that otherwise would have been unemployed. Dairy RAP has made similar initiatives. And both of these programs, as I have identified, have proved successful in increasing and widening the economic base for regional areas.

This program, however, should not be interpreted as some form of lender of last resort or rural finance company initiative. It is designed to introduce viable greenfields economic activity to regional areas and that could include the transfer of activities presently seeking to escape capital cities and their costs and environmental problems. Funding of this nature can in particular address either the cost of relocation or

establishment and I think more importantly the borrowing disadvantages that exist in establishing business activity outside of capital cities in regional areas.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe it is imperative that I highlight some of the outstanding contributions that the previous individual style programs have delivered. Under the Rural Transaction Centre Program, I was delighted to participate in the formal dedication of two RTCs, including in both cases an Aboriginal credit union as the source of financial assistance which had full internet facilities for electronic funds transfers at Maningrida and Numkawoolambah in remote Arnhem Land, right out in the middle of nowhere. And to be advised of the equally effective 462,000 Australian

government Murray Shire RTC initiative at Mathoura in the electorate of Hume in New South Wales which incorporates a Bendigo Bank, Medicare and Centrelink facilities which just opened in the last week or so.

Some other examples to touch on briefly: Hallidays Point, a small coastal town that runs a community bus which provides door to door pick up services for the elderly and the disabled members of the community to take them to their various medical appointments. A simple small $11,319 grant has created an appropriate shelter for that very vital asset which previously was out in all the weather to deteriorate. Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village redevelopment at Warrnambool is a great example at the other end of the spectrum. The federal government made a contribution of 800,000 to this project both through the Regional Assistance Program and Regional Solutions. The Flagstaff project has led to the creation of an invaluable tourist icon in the south-west of Victoria.

At Jindabyne, all terrain mountain bike challenge in the Northern Rivers, Regional Assistance Program of 30,000 a piece; again a relatively small amount of money in Australian government thinking and yet a great advantage to those people. Dial-A-Lunch, a Regional Assistance Program of 25,000. The Queensland town of Childers, well-known to many of us in a very unfortunate manner. And that of course, as we see, the RAP and Commonwealth government has provided 550,000 for the building of a memorial to that tragic event. Regional Solutions is also one of our regional programs that is making a difference in remote Northern Territory at the Ramingining Community Council newsletter, the printing of that particular thing.

Ladies and gentlemen, I could go on, and I've had some wonderful experiences in witnessing the benefits. Some people want to paint a scout hall, some people want to build a major facility. In my own particular area of personal interest, we've even funded - and I think ..... a racetrack so that it could build training facilities to bring that sort of economic activity to their region and let me tell you as someone who pays the bills, that's a lot of money.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I think we've had a very successful series of programs. I think the amalgamation of those programs under a single process which will be much quicker - we can plead guilty to delays in the past in even telling people no - that won't happen in the future. We will be intensely reliant on ACCs to give us the information that only local knowledge can bring. They will have to be tough with some of the applicants, but we will attempt with this future $64 million a year program to fund as many worthwhile applications that advance both the community and the economic benefits of smaller and regional community, and I'm sure you will be very satisfied with that in the future.

We thank all of you for the contributions you've made in developing this policy in servicing in the past, and we welcome the partnership we're going to have in the future in really doing this. Local members are always of course very active in that regard and I expect to have a few more scars on the bottom of my door as different ones come around demanding that I've got it wrong and that it was only their

electorate that deserved any of this money. I hope that goes on. It shows that we're all keen to do the best. Thank you very much.