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Wednesday, 22 August 2001
Page: 30036


Mr NEVILLE (7:52 PM) —Tonight I want to talk about a press release that was issued in my electorate by the shadow minister for regional development, transport, infrastructure, regional services and population.


Mr Wakelin —What a mouthful.


Mr NEVILLE —Yes, it is a mouthful. What that shadow minister did was quote from a June 1997 regional development paper by the then parliamentary secretary, the member for Ballarat. That press release stated:

The introduction of a Dedicated Assistance to Depressed Regions Programme in July 1997 will provide funding to support strategies to improve the skills base of regions that are experiencing adjustment pressures, high levels of unemployment or are disadvantaged by their remoteness.

Mr Speaker, I thought that is what had happened. I think this shadow minister, who frequently sends press releases into my electorate, has a very poor grip on regional development. Before I got into this place I spent 20 years in regional development, so I know a little bit about it—and this government has gone a long way towards achieving many of those ends. A lot of the programs that we have put in place are all about structural adjustment. For example, we have put in place the $309 million Agriculture Advancing Australia program; the Dairy RAP program, of which there have been two tranches; the $25 million Regional Solutions program; the $70 million Rural Transaction Centres Program; and the $20 million Regional Assistance Program. In my own area, there has been Invest Wide Bay, a special program for `depressed regions'—to use the member for Ballarat's particular words at that time—with `high levels of unemployment' and `experiencing adjustment pressures'. Invest Wide Bay is receiving special funding because of its high unemployment and its depressed infrastructure—precisely those reasons.

The shadow minister goes on to boast about what a marvellous scheme the Labor Party has—and I remember that scheme well. There were some good points to it. The OLMA program was one—I would not deny that—and John Kerin's regional centres program was another. The only thing wrong with John Kerin's regional centres program was that, when we came down here and worked manfully amongst the regions on this thing for over six months and delivered our reports on 10 regions across Australia, nothing happened. It was a great report, a great study, there was great support from the minister getting it up, but nothing happened. It went into a pigeonhole, and there it stayed. Similarly, there have been a number of other programs. As we know, the last tranche of the New Work Opportunities program was costing up to $114,000 per client.


Mr Wakelin —Unbelievable.


Mr NEVILLE —Absolutely unbelievable. But we have put all these programs in place in addition to boosting the ACCs. One of the targets of the ACCs is to look at areas of unemployment, to look at the delivery of services and training and to look at structural adjustment.

But the thing I find most interesting is that this shadow minister proudly boasted that the previous government had spent $220 million across Australia in regional development— note that figure: $220 million. Mr Speaker, in my electorate of Hinkler and just adjoining my electorate over the Capricornia boundary at a place called Stanwell, which will affect Mount Morgan in my electorate, let me tell you of some of the things that we have got: $276 million worth of government assistance, facilitation and promotion on things like Comalco, AMC, the Orafti chicory project, the Export Market Development Program and roads for infrastructure. In my electorate, more has been spent in the last couple of years or will be spent over the coming years than was spent by Labor over the whole of Australia in its last regional development program.