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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 6366

Rural and Regional Australia


Senator MARTIN (Tasmania) (14:58): My question is to the Minister for Local Government and Decentralisation, Senator McKenzie. Can the minister update the Senate on how the coalition government is delivering for regional Australia, including through additional investment and services?


Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (14:58): Thank you, Senator Martin, for your question. You understand, like all of us on this side of the Senate, that strong regions build a strong economy, and that's what the coalition government is committed to doing each and every day. Good economic management is good for the country. When the regions are strong, so too is our nation. That is why this government is investing in small businesses and providing a stable economy that allows industries to grow and flourish.

In the senator's home state of Tasmania agriculture and seafood are major contributors to the economy, worth nearly $2.5 billion combined. Nationally agriculture is now Australia's fastest growing industry, last year growing by 23 per cent of all 19 industries measured in our GDP stats, and employs 1.6 million Australians. Small business underpins our regional communities and it is this government which has backed small businesses, including Tasmanian small businesses, to create one million jobs in the five years since we came to government.

We on this side are backing regional Australia with policies to boost regional industries, grow our local economies and improve infrastructure and services across regional Australia. We've invested more than $3 billion in regional programs and billions more in broader regional infrastructure, helping regions unlock their competitive advantages and access new markets. Round 2 of the Building Better Regions Fund will see more than $212 million support 245 regional projects, and there's more funding for the regions under round 3, taking our total commitment to over $640 million. Our Stronger Communities Program has funded more than 5,500 community projects right across Australia, enabling local communities to have a say in those small capital projects. Through our $220 million Regional Jobs and Investment Packages, we're helping 10 regions that have structural issues to grow and diversify their local economies.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Martin, a supplementary question.



Senator MARTIN (Tasmania) (15:00): I thank Minister McKenzie for her recognition of the wonderful produce, agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture of Tasmania. It's outstanding and globally recognised. Can the minister outline how the government's regional development agenda will support growth in regional communities?


Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (15:00): Absolutely I can. The Regional Growth Fund will support long-term economic growth and drive job creation across regional Australia, supporting our regional communities to think big. Our suite of measures will create more jobs in the regions, boosting the local communities and making our communities more livable, all while easing congestion in our overpopulated capital cities. We will continue the Nationals' legacy of decentralisation, using the levers of government to create stronger, more vibrant regional communities. We on this side know the importance of strategic population policies, including increasing internal migration from overcrowded cities to regional Australia. There are jobs available out in the regions. It was my great pleasure to head to North Queensland, to the beautiful regional city of Mackay, where I was told of over 1,600 jobs that were dying to be filled. It's a beautiful place to live. Get out there. We're examining more ways to shift more Australians outside capital cities.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Martin, a final supplementary question.



Senator MARTIN (Tasmania) (15:01): Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches and risks?


Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (15:02): Yes, I am, Senator Martin. The biggest risk to our regional communities would be a Bill Shorten Labor government which chops and changes its policies and support for our regional communities. Those opposite have now refused to rule out moving the APVMA back to Canberra. Now the APVMA is actually up and running in Armidale through partnership with UNE's centre of excellence, it's producing regulatory scientists not just for the APVMA but for our state governments, which have a shortage of them. Joel Fitzgibbon needs to provide a solid commitment to the local community, the university and the 150 APVMA staff in Armidale that they're there to stay. They need to guarantee the agency's future in the region. But instead they stand opposed to job creation, higher wages and business growth out in regional Australia. They refuse to back the live sheep industry. They refuse to back mining jobs. Only a coalition government can be trusted to deliver for the regions.

Senator Cormann: I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.