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Thursday, 14 February 2019
Page: 10279

Economy: Rural and Regional Australia


Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:49): My question is to the Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation, Senator McKenzie. Minister, how is the Liberal-National government supporting sustainable economic growth across regional Australia?


Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (14:49): Thank you very much, Senator Williams, and thank for your long and proud history of advocating for New South Wales and for regional Australia. The Liberal-National government knows the strength of our economy underpins our way of life. For rural and regional Australians—the 30 per cent of our population who live outside the capital cities and produce over the 70 per cent of our export opportunities—there's a lot of opportunity to capture.

We, as a government, reinforced our support of regional Australia in the response tabled to the Regions at the ready: investing in Australia's future report this week. Our regional agenda will establish an expert panel that includes business and community leaders to assess key issues in regional Australia. It will report to me as the responsible minister by the end of March with a strategic approach to regional development.

But our ability to pursue these opportunities is now under real threat, should Bill Shorten become Prime Minister and those opposite form government, because of the threat that they pose to our economy and to our borders. Let's just take a trip down memory lane. The last time they were in government, their weak border protection policies, with were also couched in language around being strong and humane, cost the Australian taxpayer $16 billion. And now this week Bill Shorten and Labor again voted to weaken our border protection policies. It's going to cost at least another $16 billion—money that can't be then spent on growing regional Australia and creating local jobs. It means we won't be able to invest in the $10 billion Inland Rail project that will revolutionise freight and market opportunities; in the Coffs Harbour bypass, reducing congestion for local businesses and residents; or in the Rockwood Weir project in Capricornia that my colleague in the House Michelle Landry has fought so hard for. Labor's reckless border policies will also effect regional economies.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a supplementary question.



Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:51): I thank the minister and I ask: what are the wider benefits of the decentralisation agenda and local job creation for the regions?


Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (14:51): Our decentralisation agenda has seen more than 1,200 Australian government jobs moved to the regions since we came into government. These include regional jobs in the Australian Maritime Safety Organisation which, rightly, sought to be relocated to Coffs Harbour because, as the CEO said at the time, 'We're mariners; we like to wake up with the smell of salt in the air.' So it not only makes sense to grow regional economies by shifting government jobs, it makes policy sense, as those people are actually located in the communities that are affected by the decisions that they make. It also ensures that we have career pathways in regional Australia, for safe, profitable and secure regional economies. And, Senator Williams, just so you know how New South Wales has benefited, we've been able to shift the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet's Indigenous Affairs Group Regional Network office, we've shifted the— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a final supplementary question.



Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:52): Given the government's strong record of economic management, what impact would a return to budget blowouts and policy recklessness have on the government's ability to support the growth of regional communities?


Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (14:52): Because of our disciplined and strong economic management, we're delivering increased access to essential services which hardworking regional Australians expect, need and deserve. I'm asked about what impacts the financial recklessness of those opposite will have on regional Australia. We'll have less mobile phone coverage, affecting our small businesses, our health and education access and our emergency service operators. We know that our $550 million stronger rural health workforce strategy will be gone and under threat. We know that our crucial agricultural industries, where we will work with regional communities to take agriculture from a $64 billion industry to a nearly $100 billion industry by 2030, will be under threat. We've seen what they've said about the live sheep industry. We know our mining industry is under threat if they're elected, because Bill Shorten says one thing in Carlton and another thing in Capricornia and Rockhampton. We know our—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, on a point of order?

Senator Cameron: I think this is now the fourth time that this minister has not used the Leader of the Opposition's proper title. She should abide by standing orders.

The PRESIDENT: That is a correct point of order. Senator McKenzie, I remind you of the use of appropriate titles.

Senator McKENZIE: Mr Bill Shorten says one thing in Carlton and another thing in Rockhampton. (Time expired)