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Tuesday, 7 December 2004
Page: 28

Senator BOLKUS (2:14 PM) —My question is to Senator Ian Campbell, the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Regional Services. I ask the minister whether he can confirm that the Regional Partnerships grant awarded to the Marine Discovery Centre at Bondi is amongst almost $3 million in grants awarded to urban projects based in Australia's capital cities. Can the minister confirm that more than $800,000 of Regional Partnerships funding has been allocated in metropolitan Adelaide, including $187,000 for a church redevelopment in the marginal seat of Makin? Can he confirm that more than $450,000 of Regional Partnerships funding has been allocated to metropolitan Brisbane electorates, including more than $138,000 for the establishment of a dog day care centre in that region? Can he also confirm that more than $480,000 of Regional Partnerships funding has been awarded to projects in metropolitan Sydney, including $82,500 for a division of the Hillsong Church in what the minister may describe as rural and regional Redfern? Just how regional are these partnerships, Minister?

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —I am happy to get detailed briefings on each one of those projects. What I invite the Labor Party to do is to analyse in their own terms these projects. They have all obviously matched the guidelines of the program. What I would like the opposition to do—I have invited them to do this day after day as they try to attack local community groups working to build opportunities, to build facilities and to build capacity and employment across Australia—is, rather than criticising, carping, whingeing and whining, to actually come clean and say which one of the projects they would stop. Will they stop the R.M. Williams centre? Will they stop the equine centre? Will they stop the bio-fuels project in Gunnedah? Will they close down the Marine Discovery Centre in Bondi? Let us see how fair dinkum Labor are in relation to this program. We believe it is a good program to have the Commonwealth working in partnership with local communities—for example, in relation to the Bondi project which is funded under this program.

You have had the New South Wales government making contributions. You have had New South Wales fisheries. You have had the local council. In fact, you have got all three levels of government involved in this project. You have got three levels of government—Labor and Liberal—supporting the project. There is only one party out of step, as they have been with most of the community over recent months, and that is the Australian Labor Party here in the federal parliament.

Senator BOLKUS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. It is a fundamental question: how can multiple grants to inner city applicants be justified under a program meant to assist rural and regional communities? Is it because the projects that failed under other more appropriate program criteria were then channelled through this sham Regional Partnerships assessment process? Given the minister's professed concern for the plight of rural and regional Australia, how can he now defend the allocation of millions of dollars of regional funding to marginal metropolitan and even inner city electorates in the weeks and months preceding the recent federal election?

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —These are programs that have been supported in some instances by local government, state Labor governments and the federal coalition government. The point that the Labor Party do not understand and do not want to accept is that they are all projects that involve a community process, that empower communities, that support local communities and that support projects that quite often do not get supported under other funding. It is entirely appropriate, if you are a community focused on building a new facility, creating new opportunities in regional areas, that you come to a government and try to find programs that match the project that you are seeking to create. If some projects fail under some programs but get supported under others, then good luck to the local citizens who get behind these projects, do the hard yards and get them up and running. You have got only one party here trying to drag them down: the federal Labor Party.