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No programs for regional Australia: but Labor rorts alive and well.



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Wed, 14th May 2008 NO PROGRAMS FOR REGIONAL AUSTRALIA - BUT LABOR RORTS ALIVE AND WELL

The Hon John Cobb MP Shadow Minister for Regional Development and Water Security

If this years Budget proves one thing it is that Anthony Albanese makes a great Shadow Minister.

Rural and Regional Australia has been hit hard in this years Budget with the $436 million Regional Partnerships Programme gutted by a Minister too politically driven to stand up for his new responsibility, regional Australia.

The Budget Papers acknowledge that "Regional, rural and remote Australia accounts for over one third of the population and two thirds of Australia's export income. Australia's regions have made, and continue to make a major contribution to Australia's economy and way of life. Australia's future prosperity and well-being depends to a significant degree on the strength of its regions". (2008 Budget Related Paper 1.13 page 59)

Yet the Minister responsible for regional, rural and remote Australian's is axing a program designed to ensure regional, rural and remote areas can continue to make a significant contribution to the Australia economy, Shadow Minister for Regional Development and Water Security, John Cobb said today.

''The $236 million Regional Partnerships Program has been abolished and the $200 million Growing Regions Program designed to help communities which were experiencing growing pains as a result of seachange/treechange pressures or the mining boom has also been axed.

''Also slashed in the Budget is the Sustainable Regions program.

''In the meantime rural and regional areas will not be able to apply for any new projects be they youth projects, community projects, or other much need infrastructure for at least two years.

''Because Minister Albanese is so incompetent that he is going to take 18 months to 'consult' before he may introduce a new Regional Partnerships Program - just in time for the next election.

''Unbelievably Minister Albanese has refused to honour projects which were successful in receiving grants prior to last years' election, but had not started contract negotiations.

''Hundreds of Regional Partnership grant applicants who have been waiting for over six months for an answer on the future of their applications have also been treated with absolute contempt by the Rudd Government and none of them will be funded.

''This is a disgrace, especially given the rank hypocrisy of the Government who have introduced a new $176 million 'Better Regions Programme' which the Budget Papers state; 'delivers the Government's 2007 election commitments'

Mr Cobb said none of the $176 million election promises have not been through any vetting process, contrary to promises made by the then Opposition Leader in Perth on Friday the 16th of November, 2007 that all Regional Development projects would have to be approved by the Department.

Rudd: Because what I just said is it's got to pass the departmental seal of approval that is departmental, that is public service and if it doesn't pass the departmental seal of approval having gone through the first two it doesn't proceed.

How is it that the Labor Party is going to spend $176 million on election commitments that have never passed the Prime Minister's three stage process?

''What happens if the Department rejects the election commitment as being inappropriate as has already happened with the $2.6 million promised to fund a memorial to a dead tree in Queensland?'' Mr Cobb said.