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Thursday, 21 November 2013
Page: 1081


Mrs ELLIOT (Richmond) (16:40): I too take this opportunity to congratulate you, Madam Speaker, on your election to the position of Speaker. Today, I want to talk about the impact of the new government's cuts in my electorate of Richmond. Abbott's axe has indeed fallen upon the North Coast of New South Wales. These cuts by the Liberal-National parties in regional communities are already hurting people right throughout the North Coast. In particular, I want to focus on the cuts in round 5 of the Regional Development Australia Fund. These cuts will have a major impact on some important projects in the Byron and Tweed shires. I will go first to the Byron shire, which I am sure the House is familiar with. It is a tourist icon for domestic and international visitors—about two million people per year.

The Regional Development Australia Fund round 5 had allocated more than $149,000 to the Byron Shire Council to complete a one-kilometre long, circular, off-road, dedicated cycling track. It would have allowed local cycling groups to stage competitions as well as being available to the general cycling public. It was a great initiative from the council. It would have complemented perfectly the Byron Regional Sport and Cultural Complex, an outstanding complex in the Byron shire that was funded mostly by the former Labor government. The shire have been told they will not receive that funding under the Abbott government. It is devastating for the area. It meant so much for the growth of sports complex and for the Byron shire.

Another major funding uncertainty for the Byron shire is the Safer Suburbs program and the project to improve their taxi rank. The House would be aware that the Byron shire has experienced issues with alcohol related street violence—a great concern and a problem compounded by the state Liberal-National parties not providing adequate policing resources in our area. Now they are seeing their federal colleagues making a decision that is going to further impact on this problem. The project had sought $60,000. It may not seem like a lot to the House, but it would have made a big difference in improving safety in an area that vitally needs it. The shire relies on tourism and now the project is in doubt. It would have helped in the overall approach to deal with street crime. The Byron Shire Council have been very outspoken in their disappointment with the new federal government. They will lobby very hard to get some of that funding.

In terms of the Tweed shire, the Liberal-National government have cut the funding for the renewal of Bay Street in Tweed Heads, another project under round 5. The Tweed Shire Council would have received more than $600,000 to fund the rejuvenation of the Tweed Heads central business district, a really important project. It would have boosted jobs, productivity and business in a part of Tweed Heads that really needs it. It is an area adjacent to Coolangatta. This project would have allowed streetscaping and would have improved the whole look of the main street.

It was very disappointing when it was announced that they would not be receiving that funding of more than $600,000. Both the Tweed Shire Council and the Tweed business chamber have publicly expressed their disappointment concerning this cut. The community has been very open in expressing how disappointed they are with this new government. Funding for these sorts of projects are vitally important. Both the Byron and the Tweed Heads projects would have provided jobs during their construction phase. That was the impetus behind our regional development program, providing infrastructure and creating jobs in the regions. The Labor Party understand regional Australia and how important it is to provide that funding. It shows from the very early days that the phrase 'Abbott's axe' is absolutely true. These are heartless and cruel acts by the government, ripping funding from regional areas like mine on the North Coast of New South Wales that really do need it. If you want to look a bit further when it comes to the RDAF funding on the North Coast of New South Wales, with the cancelling of round 5, across the entire region we have funding cuts of more than $2.5 million to seven councils for 12 local projects.

I would like to contrast this with what the previous Labor government delivered. Looking at a seat like mine, we delivered more than $1.5 billion of funding for that area—upgrading the highway, upgrading schools, upgrading community infrastructure and delivering health infrastructure. We delivered the biggest single infrastructure investment ever in the history of the North Coast, the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale upgrade. In contrast, Abbott's axe has now fallen on us.