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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6402

Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (12:26): There are two points that I would make in response to the member. First of all, it is not a waste of time for the RDAs to be considering road proposals where they have the opportunity to advance their case to bodies like Infrastructure Australia or to seek funding through other programs that the government administers. We want the RDAs to think beyond the silo of RDAF, which is the point I have made consistently in response to questions from your side of the chamber in this session. It is not a waste of time. I think road infrastructure is vital, and there is a real challenge in terms of road infrastructure. There is also a challenge in terms of getting vehicles off the roads and onto rail, and that is why the intermodal hubs become terribly important. But the government has to think not just beyond the silos but also where it can work with the private sector and in the development of financial instruments that could also provide an avenue by which these things can be done.

I think the thrust of your question, as important as it is in identifying the opportunities, limits the scope if you just keep going back to RDAF. The mechanism that gives the RDAs critical mass is the RDAF because they can actually have an influence directly over that fund, but they should not see themselves as limited. If we believe in the principle of embedding localism in the way in which we govern, what we want is local input into the decision-making programs not just of the Commonwealth but also of state government and where local government initiatives and private sector money can be accessed. That is the model, quite frankly, that I want to develop.

As to the specific examples you have referred to, it is best to say that, in all cases where projects do not get up, they are offered the opportunity to engage with the department to understand why they did not get up and to learn again from the opportunity and to make adjustments accordingly. I would be surprised if the RDA had not already done so in that case. I made the point at the outset that, whilst round 2 is now out for consideration—and we will be announcing it in coming weeks—there are three more rounds potentially, but only courtesy of the passage now in the parliament of the minerals resource rent tax. Take that tax away—which your party supports—and take away that ability, and you take away the funding for regional Australia through RDAF; you take away the leverage. So you have to think really seriously about where this blind opposition is taking you. If you want to have influence in the way in which your region can actually benefit and drive the agenda, it has to have the capacity for leverage and it has to have the ability to makes its case in the knowledge that there is funding there. It is only under us that the funding is there. Under your proposals, the funding would disappear.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Portfolio

Proposed expenditure, $474,242,000