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Monday, 22 March 2021
Page: 2873

Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (10:10): I am pleased to second the motion. The Charter of Budget Honesty Amendment (Rural and Regional Australia Statements) Bill 2021, introduced by the member for Indi, is incredibly significant, and I'm really disappointed that we don't have any National Party MPs in this place to hear about this bill. They say that they're fighting for regional Australia, and this is a bill that will very much support regional Australia because of its transparency.

Regional Australia is a significant contributor to the Australian economy, accounting for approximately 40 per cent of our national economic output and employing approximately one-third of Australia's workforce. I believe that it's regional Australia that's holding up the nation. The traditional perspective of regional Australia often reflects a somewhat narrow view limited to just agriculture and mining. While these industries are critical—and they certainly are critical in my electorate—and while they make up a major proportion of the economic outputs in the regions, our regions are becoming more and more diverse, and I believe that many of the decisions in this place are very much east coast city centric. In my beautiful electorate of Mayo, our top five sectors are agriculture, forestry and fishing, construction, real estate services, and professional scientific and technical services. Employment in high-value services is increasing. And it's not just restricted to my electorate; many people, because of telecommunication advancements, are able to work in the regions. However, while there is increasing diversity in economic opportunity, there are great challenges in the regions with respect to access to affordable health. Certainly, in parts of my electorate you're incredibly fortunate if you actually get a doctor's appointment, and in other parts pensioners can't get bulk-billed. It is very, very difficult.

The requirement for the Treasurer to publicly release and table a regional statement together with each budget and economic and fiscal outlook report is long overdue. Every single time we spend money in this place, we should be detailing to the Australian community exactly how that money will support regional Australia and its impact on regional Australia. A statement that requires an assessment of the impact of government decisions and initiatives on the economic, social and cultural environmental impacts in regional Australia is also long overdue.

Let's talk about education. It is incredibly difficult for young people in the regions to get to university, and that's why we sought legislation in this place last year. That was very difficult, but it was about changing the statistics, which show that regional young people are far less likely to gain qualifications post year 12 despite a desire to do so. It's the tyranny of distance. When you look at education, when you look at health, when you look at a whole range of factors—aged care is another policy issue where it is incredibly difficult in regional Australia, yet the policy is very much designed for a metro space. I think that we need to do much, much more at every budget line to consider the impacts on regional Australia of how we spend money in this place.

I commend the member for Indi for this bill. Again, I'm incredibly disappointed there aren't members of the National Party here to listen to this. If you truly are for regional Australia, you will support the member for Indi in this challenge. Let's get this bill through the parliament.

The SPEAKER: The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.