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Thursday, 2 December 2004
Page: 84

Senator CHAPMAN (3:09 PM) —What we have really seen in the questions that were put to Senator Ian Macdonald today and the remarks made by Senator McLucas is the politics of envy writ large on the part of the Labor Party through their opposition to government support for rural areas. That is what this is all about. The Labor Party are simply completely out of touch with the needs of rural Australia. That, of course, was reflected very much in the result of the recent federal election. I can only cite the situation in my home state of South Australia as an example. Wakefield, which had become a nominally Labor seat on the redistribution, was in fact lost by the Labor Party and won by the Liberal Party as a direct result of this sort of attitude by the Labor Party, whereby they treat rural areas and rural people with complete disdain. This is because the Labor Party are dominated by the urban elites.

I suggest that Senator McLucas takes a good, hard look at the article in the Australian newspaper this morning written by former federal Labor finance minister Peter Walsh. He really puts the finger on the Labor Party and the way in which they have lost touch with real people. They have lost their way and they have lost touch with the real people of Australia. The way in which they have raised this issue in the chamber today simply reinforces the fact that the Labor Party are out of touch. They are floundering around looking for issues that do not exist. They are creating fantasies. The central issue is that they are completely out of touch, particularly with regard to rural people. Regional Partnerships is a very significant program as far as rural Australia is concerned. Since that program took effect on 1 July 2003, some 440 projects have been approved with a total value of $100,493,000. A total of $308 million will be available through the Regional Partnerships Program over the next four years from 2004-05 to 2007-08.

The Regional Partnerships program is having a positive effect on regional communities. It is having a beneficial impact. It funds a range of projects which make an enormous difference to the ways in which communities function, ranging from restoring local halls or providing a volunteer bus service to major infrastructure investments, all of which, of course, contribute significantly to economic growth opportunities. That is what the government has done in relation to this issue that the Labor Party have sought to raise today. Regional Partnerships has also funded a number of projects with a broad cross-regional or national focus. These include improved skills for rural and regional teachers through the National Centre of Mathematics and Science Teaching at the University of New England and the expansion of the Victorian based rural law online web advisory service to all states and territories.

Importantly, every dollar of Regional Partnerships funding has generated another $3 of investment from other partners. For every $17,000 worth of benefits, the government has supported the creation of another new job in the community. This investment by the government demonstrates its ongoing commitment to the people of rural and regional communities. That is where the contrast lies: between the government doing beneficial things as far as rural and regional committees are concerned and the Labor Party simply carping on about issues that do not exist. I come back to the results of the last election. The seat of Wakefield has a rural element—as, indeed, does the seat of Kingston in the southern areas. There was a very strong vote for the government and a very low vote for the Labor Party in those areas simply because voters know that the Labor Party does not—

Senator O'Brien —It was a 100-vote difference. I would not call that a very low vote.

Senator CHAPMAN —I am talking about the rural part of that electorate, Senator O'Brien, not the overall result. It is because Labor completely neglects the needs of rural communities that the bush and rural areas will not give their support to the Labor Party. In the cases of Wakefield and Kingston, both seats in South Australia—Labor seats won from the Labor Party by the government at the last election—that was clearly a significant factor in the result. I know that my colleague Senator Ferris has the capacity to reinforce that through her own direct experience of working in the Wakefield electorate in support of our very good candidate the new member David Fawcett. I have a similar experience in relation to our candidate and now member for Kingston, Mr Kym Richardson. That simply reflects Labor's failure. (Time expired)