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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 983

Regional Development

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:36): My question is to the Minister for Regional Development, Senator Nash. Former Prime Minister Keating's inspired action to move ASIC to Gippsland in the 1990s now supports 230 local jobs. The Rural Industries RDC relocated to Wagga Wagga, and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's planned move to actually reside within the Murray-Darling Basin, hopefully at Shepparton, is also similarly inspired by the current federal government. Can the minister update the Senate on the government's plans to increase opportunities in the regions and through their program of decentralisation of government agencies?

Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:37): I thank Senator McKenzie for her question and for her tireless work for regional communities. Unlike those opposite, we on this side of the chamber, the Liberal-National coalition, are strongly supportive of regional communities. We are a government that wants to invest in those communities and to invest in their futures. We want those communities to have good jobs, high-paying jobs and better access to services.

Part of our commitment to growing jobs outside of our major capital cities is to look at opportunities to decentralise government agencies to rural and regional areas. We clearly took these plans to the 2013 federal election and we then went to the last election with specific relocation initiatives—relocations that we have now secured a clear mandate to deliver.

Some of the agency relocations that we have already commenced include: relocating the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation to Wagga Wagga; relocating the Grains Research & Development Corporation to Toowoomba, Dubbo, Northam and Adelaide; relocating the Fisheries Research and Development Centre to establish a southern headquarters office in Adelaide; and relocating the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to Armidale.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left!

Senator NASH: A great move for the people of Armidale!

Also, we know how important it is, as Senator McKenzie has referred to, that for Traralgon and the wider Latrobe Valley community we protect the hundreds of Australian Securities and Investments Commission's jobs that are based there. As senators would be aware, the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee is conducting an inquiry into this very issue. I strongly encourage all of our people in regional communities and rural stakeholders to have their say and to actually send Labor a message by saying, 'Those of us in regional communities deserve to have jobs, too.'

The PRESIDENT: Senator McKenzie, a supplementary question.

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:39): A fantastic answer by the minister. Thank you so much. As a senator that sits on that committee, I am looking forward to those submissions from across regional Australia. Can the minister explain how the government's decentralisation agenda is benefiting regional communities?

Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:39): I can. We might not be all that sophisticated in this corner but we understand regional communities. Our decentralisation agenda is all about the region. It is about growing our regions; it is about strengthening our regions. On this side of the chamber, we know that when our regions are strong the nation is strong. There is no doubt that delivering more jobs and better jobs to regional areas will ensure the long-term economic sustainability and prosperity of those communities.

While government continually promotes regional areas to the private sector as a great place to invest, government also has a role to play in boosting jobs in our regions. Relocating government agencies is not a new idea. Indeed, as Senator McKenzie has indicated, it was the previous Prime Minister Keating pushing this. We know how successful decentralisation has been in the past in transforming regional communities. This government is going to do the drive to see it happen again.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McKenzie, a final supplementary question.

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (14:40): Is the minister aware of any other plans or approaches to regional development?

Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:40): Yes, I am aware of alternative policies. They reside with those sitting opposite in the Labor Party. Those opposite are against boosting jobs in the regions because they just pay no attention whatsoever to regional communities. They do not believe in regional committees, they do not want to invest in regional communities, they do not believe in delivering new jobs to regional communities.

Mr President, listen: not a sound from the other side—not one bit of interjection saying that I am wrong, because they know I am right. We do not apologise for investing in regional communities. We never apologise for taking decisions that are going to provide a sustainable future for regional communities to provide more jobs. And part of that is looking to decentralise to get those public sector jobs out into the regions where they deserve that investment, because it is regional Australia that drives this country.