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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6398

Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (12:08): I thank the member for Hunter for his question. I have had the opportunity to visit with him on a number of occasions not just since I have had this portfolio but over many years. This region is a fantastic example of one that not only has benefited from the mining boom but also shows the fundamental importance of economic diversification. It is economic diversification and this transition phase that we have to encourage so many of our regions to embrace. It is not moving away from their strengths; it is building on those strengths and adapting in different ways—in new ways and in using the smarts, the innovative processes, the technologies and the design to take them forward. But they cannot be expected to do it on their own. I have talked already about carbon farming and the opportunities in the Hunter—its great capacity to produce in not just viticulture but horticulture. It is a lush region. Why can't we see the opportunities more effectively in carbon-farming initiatives? Why can't we, in growth areas, instead of talking about councils having new costs imposed on them, look at the opportunities for landfill and conversion of landfill into energy? It is something that does not just produce a cost; it provides the economic return.

I am asked by the member what threats are posed to this suite of measures. The biggest threat is a Tony Abbott-led government getting into power. They already have a $70 billion black hole. They have already got overcommitted, without the ability to fund or cost. And they are going to cut the very programs that fund the initiatives that we have talked of. That takes out the potential to challenge regions and work with them—

Mr John Cobb interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms K Livermore ): The member for Calare will have his opportunity.

Mr CREAN: to develop the initiatives. So I say to those people in regional Australia who are looking for the opportunities for their future: work with us, work in a way that understands your strength, and work with us to realise that strength. Access the programs; do not be scared off by the fear campaign that those that sit opposite run. We have more to gain by grasping the opportunities than by cowering in fear. All you will get is a fear campaign from the other side. You will get progressive, sustained and strong economic growth and social diversity from us.