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Thursday, 19 September 2019
Page: 3695

Mr RAMSEY (GreyGovernment Whip) (15:52): I look at the subject of the MPI today with wonderment—thank you, Member for Hunter. I came to this place in 2007. I've been here a little over 12 years. Half of that time was spent under a Labor government and half of that time has been spent under the coalition. I can tell you that, for the first six years, getting investment back in my electorate of Grey was like drawing blood out of a stone. We had stuff-all money for roads and absolutely nothing, not one cent—considering the previous member's comment—for mobile phones. One of the very first actions of the newly installed Rudd government was to steal $2 billion from the telecommunications future fund—the fund that was going to provide money forever to pay for the communications issues of regional Australia. We had no drought support scheme under the Labor government. They were very lucky that there weren't any droughts, because we had no drought support scheme. And certainly in Grey there was absolutely no investment in rail from the federal Labor government.

Since we came to government in 2013, I have seen a completely different response from the government here in Canberra. I will start with drought, because drought has been one of the issues. I can tell you that it is a challenge at the moment. My farm looks as bad as I have ever seen it. I was up at Marree not very long ago talking to cattle stations that are totally destocked. They appreciate what the government is doing through the farm household support; the appointment of extra financial counsellors; offering low-interest loans for drought and restructure; and, particularly, the replanting and restocking loans, which people will not pay interest on for two years. That gives you the opportunity to buy some new cattle, fatten them up and ship them off to market and actually start paying off your loan before you get charged any interest. There's also the accelerated tax write-off—the threshold has been lifted to $30,000 now—and the drought community loans. There are now 19 councils across my electorate that have received $1 million.

I have to say that my councils are pretty happy with the way the federal government is responding at the moment. The Roads to Recovery money has gone up by 25 per cent. In South Australia, because of a dodgy formula that's been around for many, many years, we've had a special consideration. We have had an extension of the Special Local Roads Program. Councils are pretty happy. We have spent more than $2 billion on drought and allocated another $3.3 billion to the Future Drought Fund. I think that's a good performance.

We've heard a little bit about fencing. The dog fence runs through South Australia—2,150 kilometres of it. Sixteen hundred kilometres of it are more than 100 years old. This government, along with the South Australian government, has put in $10 million to replace that 1,600 kilometres of fence. This will be an investment that will pay dividends for the sheep industry for the next 80 to 100 years.

In Grey we've established three new headspace units since 2013. One in Whyalla is up and operational; one is to start in Port Lincoln next year; and there is the 'flying' headspace at Port Augusta, which is servicing the northern regions of the state.

We've recognised the fact that we have a doctor shortage. I had Greg Hunt, the Minister for Health, in my electorate only three weeks ago. He went to my home town and offered the northern Eyre Peninsula $300,000 for a project office to put together a northern Eyre Peninsula practice so they can all support each other. So $550 million was allocated to fixing up those problems in rural health, attracting more professionals back into the regions.

In terms of roads, $490 million has been committed by the federal government to Grey to fix up the Horrocks Highway and to fix up the Barrier Highway. The federal government has committed $100 million for west of Port Augusta, with over $25 million of that committed to Eyre Peninsula to help deal with the closure of the narrow-gauge railway system there. They'll be a new bridge at Port Augusta. The Joy Baluch Bridge will be duplicated. There will be an overpass and dual lanes through Port Wakefield, which is a very famous bottleneck in South Australia where, on holiday weekends, people can queue for two or three hours to get through the town. All those things are coming. And we have committed $64 million to the duplication of the Augusta Highway, north of Port Wakefield. This is an enormous investment. This is coming from a government that understands the power and the potential of the regions and how important they are to Australia.