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Stronger regions statement: third phase in government commitment to regional Australia.



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M251/2001 28 August 2001

STRONGER REGIONS STATEMENT - THIRD PHASE IN GOVERNMENT COMMITMENT TO REGIONAL AUSTRALIA

The Federal Government's regional statement was the third phase in the Federal Government's ongoing plan to turn regional fortunes around from a dismal past under the previous Labor Government, to a brighter and more sustainable future, Federal Regional Services Minister, Senator Ian Macdonald said today.

Senator Macdonald said the statement, to be launched tomorrow, was another step in the Howard Government's commitment to giving a helping hand-up, not a handout, to country Australians.

"It is only recently that regions have started to see the fruits of the Howard -Government's work in addressing the basics," Senator Macdonald said.

"It hasn't been easy - we really were handed a bit of a budget basket case by Labor. Government debt was around $90 bn and the undeclared $10bn Budget black hole needed to be addressed and rural decline was running unabated at that time."

Senator Macdonald said the first two stages of the Howard Government's commitment to regional areas included:

Getting the big picture right. Building the capacity to help regional areas by addressing the financial and economic fundamentals including reducing Labor's excessive debt, reducing interest rates and fixing the tax system to remove business costs particularly for exports - the lifeblood of regional areas.

1.

Commencing targeted assistance, as the funding became available, including improved transactions services, better telecommunications, health, education and infrastructure. Around $28bn has been directed to regional areas over the past five and a half years.

2.

Senator Macdonald said that much of the second phase would continue to roll out over the next few years including the $700 million rural doctors package, $70 million Rural Transaction Centres, $90 million Regional Solutions, the $464 million Networking the Nation investment and the $1.2 bn local roads boost.

"Tomorrow's statement builds on stage 2 further, outlines the future vision and provides additional, affordable commitments in response to community feedback."

"We are now in a position, because we made the hard financial and economic decisions, to provide a

sharper focus on addressing structural issues in specific regions that have not shared in the benefits of the improved economy. We will also take the opportunity to refine some existing policy," Senator Macdonald said.

Media Contact: David Moore 02 6277 7060