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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6390


Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (11:37): I thank the member for Page for her question. I know how dedicated a local member she is, not just in terms of the community infrastructure, and the example that we have just heard is just one of them. I was also with her in September last year when we opened the Casino Community and Cultural Centre, which was a wonderful addition to the community and, again, would not have been there but for a Labor government supporting it. This was supported through the Regional Development Australia Fund, which the member refers to. The fund is a fundamental part of what we are doing in terms of revitalising regional Australia and helping not just to diversify its economic base but to realise the importance of livability, community aspiration and community access to a range of services as well as cultural and community experiences.

You have heard about the Lismore City Hall, Madam Deputy Speaker. The other initiative in the member's electorate was the upgrade of the Ballina airport. It is interesting that yesterday in the House we had that shameless exhibition by the member for North Sydney, riffing off a press release about how regional air services were being reduced, when people who actually live in the regions know that the services are in fact being increased. It is true that Brindabella was changing its business model to take advantage, quite frankly, of the huge growth in fly-in fly-out business, in particular in the mining sector, which the opposition said would stop investing when the carbon tax was brought in. Far from not investing, they are going gang busters. Regional airlines, amongst other things, are changing their business models, but the airports themselves are having to upgrade significantly, and the Regional Development Australia Fund has been helping in that regard.

I am reminded by the member for Blair that one of the smaller initiatives that we were able to support was in his electorate. The Somerset Civic Centre received a grant out of the first round, and that was a terribly important rebuilding exercise for that community after it was devastated so badly by the floods in Queensland. It was not just a question of repairing what had been lost; it was a question of building a new heart, new commitment, new meaning to the region and giving it that community base.

I said before that we are about to announce the second round. The point I would go on to make to the member is this: that those two rounds are two of five rounds that the Regional Development Australia Fund will commit to before the next election. There are now another three rounds in RDAF, because we have got the parliament to pass the MRRT. But those rounds will disappear if those who sit opposite have their way They oppose the very mechanism by which you can inject back into communities, because the funding for the next three rounds comes from the minerals resource rent tax, which they do not get. It is distributing the benefits of the mining boom and enabling communities to diversify their base and build their community amenity.

We are delighted with the success of this round. We are delighted with the way in which communities have been responding to it in a constructive and strategic way—where communities have been prepared to look across their traditional borders and see what benefits the wider community, where they have followed the message and, as the member for Page has said, tried to get the leveraged funding that was associated with the town hall at Lismore by getting other levels of government to contribute.

It is that leverage that becomes so important, because it can potentially turn the billion dollar fund into $3 billion of injection into regions. If you look at the first round, having multiplied the $150 million of ours, you can just imagine what the rest of it will do. So I would urge those who sit on the other side—and I know they are interested in this fund, because they have got applications in and, when I have my drop-in centres, they come around all the time urging me to consider them—to get behind the fund. But you cannot do it unless you are prepared to put the appropriation in.