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Monday, 28 November 2016
Page: 4694

Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (18:15): I commend the government for investing in the National Stronger Regions Fund, and in particular I am pleased that the government has sought to amend the fund so that the focus is on investment in regional projects in regional Australia, and it is not allocated to metropolitan Australia. Of course, I have no issue with infrastructure spending in our cities, but you only need to travel through regional Australia to realise that regional funding comes in a poor second to spending on metro infrastructure.

I would just like to note for the House my disappointment and my particular concern that, while we had in round 1 $212 million in spending and, in round 2, $293 million in spending, for round 3 only $126 million was spent in this program. We are a very big country, and that is spread very thinly through regional Australia. I am also a little bit disappointed that, of the three rounds and of the total investment by the Commonwealth of more than $600 million, only one project had a Commonwealth investment in my electorate, and that was $9 million for Kangaroo Island.

Just to detail that: in round 2 of the program, the Kangaroo Island Council put in a successful bid for $9 million for an $18 million project to upgrade the island's airport. Kangaroo Island has some of the most expensive freight and passenger costs in Australia. So I and the community of Kangaroo Island are very hopeful that the upgraded airport will deliver on its promise to provide direct access to new markets for tourism and for the export of our niche agricultural products, including seafoods. Kangaroo Island received a quarter of South Australia's allocation over those three rounds. That is just $9 million out of $632 million.

In round 3, there were hundreds of applications, including 48 from South Australia. Four of those projects were selected, with a total value of just over $9.8 million, of which $8.6 million was set aside for a wastewater management project for Peterborough to allow for the growth of industry in the region—a very worthy project. Unfortunately, two applications from my electorate were unsuccessful, including a $380 million bid for the Milang & District Community Association to redevelop the Milang Lakeside Butter Factory and a project by the Mount Barker District Council to build a regional football centre in Mount Barker.

I note, though, that the federal government has reaffirmed its commitment to an election promise to provide $3.75 million towards the $27 million regional sporting hub project in Mount Barker. I may say that Mount Barker is one of the fastest-growing regional centres in Australia. We have a population of 33,000, and we are expected to be 52,000 by the year 2036. So my office is working very hard with the Mount Barker council to secure other funding for this crucial piece of infrastructure, which will boost the economy and will attract elite-level games of AFL and soccer to our Adelaide Hills.

South Australia has an unenviable position of having some of the highest unemployment rates in our country. Just before I entered parliament, I learnt that my electorate had the dubious honour of being one of the top 20 worst places for youth unemployment in Australia, and that was for the first time since records have been kept. Those records were detailed by the Brotherhood of St Laurence. The Adelaide Hills and central region made the list with 16.3 per cent youth unemployment. That was just under the northern suburbs of Adelaide, which are always considered the area of highest youth unemployment, which had 16.4 per cent. In South Australia, the only area worse off than us was the Barossa and the mid-north, which came in at No. 7, with 19.4 per cent. If ever there was an argument for infrastructure investment in regional South Australia to create jobs, those figures detail the need. The government has spent over $600 million on the rest of the country on this fund. With $495 million left and rebranding it as the Building Better Regions Fund, it is my hope that South Australia, and Mayo in particular, will not be overlooked and will receive its fair share.

I would like to detail very quickly one project that my community is particularly passionate about, a freight bypass. We need this to come out from Murray Bridge to take freight north until it gets to Dry Creek. This will increase productivity, bring a lot of jobs to our region and allow for a transport corridor throughout my electorate so that we can, hopefully, one day get some sort of train or O-Bahn infrastructure that we so critically need and that are missing and have been missed for over 20 years. It would also allow trucks to travel around to the north and miss the dangerous Adelaide Hills route down to the city.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): 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.