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Regional Development Budget outcome commits $3.5 billion

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Other Media Statements [Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government] [Minister for Transport and Regional Development]

M e d i a

[Michael Ronaldson, Parliamentary Secretary] [ Departmental]

R e l e a s eTHE HON ALEX SC Minister for Regional Development, Territories and i S49/98 15 May 1998


The Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government, Alex Somlyay addressing the 63 rd Annual Conference of the Western Queensland Local Government Association in Longreach said the Coalition's Regional Australia Strategy announced in the Costello Budget is based on a recognition that all areas of government activity affect regional Australia.

As shown in my ministerial statement Regional Australia: Our Commitment, the scale and breadth of the Coalition's commitment to regional Australia far exceeds the failed efforts of Labor.

Through five programmes alone the Coalition has committed in excess of $3.5 billion to regional Australia:

• the $1.25 billion Natural Heritage Trust • the $1 billion Federation Fund; • the $250 million Regional Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund; • more than $700 million on Federal road funding; and • the $525 million Agriculture - Advancing Australia package.

Our Strategy is to ensure that the needs and interests of people in regional Australia are paramount in the decisions taken in all portfolios.

Unlike Labor we do not believe that the interests of regional Australia should be quarantined and addressed by one portfolio alone.

Unlike Labor we will not attempt to deceive people into thinking that a single programme, like the Labor's REDO scheme can fix all ills in regional areas. Unlike Labor we don't 'put all of our eggs in one basket' and expect a single programme to meet the many and varied needs of regional Australia.

In contrast. Labor put 'all its eggs in one basket' and expected one programme to meet the many and varied needs of regional Australia. They were wrong and voters in regional Australia told them so at the last election.

RDO's duplicated the functions of many existing local government and community based organisations. In many cases RDO boards were populated with 'Labor mates', not with the most talented community leaders.

The majority of the money allocated to the RDO programme was spent on funding organisational structures: many of them in city, not country, areas.

Voters in regional Australia recognised these deficiencies and rejected Labor resoundingly at the last election. The Coalition has a stronger, more integrated, focus on the needs of regional Australia than Labor ever displayed in government:

• there are two ministers in the Coalition Government with specific responsibility for regional affairs; • the needs and interests of regional Australia are acknowledged across all portfolios; • the Prime Minister has appointed a high level Ministerial Working Group on Regional Affairs to ensure the all ministers consider the regional impact of new and continuing initiatives;

• regional interests are strongly represented by the 49 Coalition backbench members from regional electorates. 16/10/1998


The Coalition also benefits considerably from advice received through the network of Area Consultative Committees (ACCs) established under the employment, education and training portfolio.

Never before has the voice of regional Australia been heard more clearly in Canberra.

In addition, a very substantial contribution is made to regional communities through financial assistance grants to local government. Regional councils receive over $800 million of the $1.2 billion we are providing in grants to local government. More than $265 million of the money granted to regional councils is earmarked for local roads.

The $10 million regional development coordination initiative is a key element of our Regional Australia Strategy. It will ensure that people in regional Australia are aware of and have access to the programmes which comprise our Regional Australia Strategy.

Labor's dismal record and narrow approach to the many and varied needs of regional Australia does not stack-up against the Coalition's integrated and comprehensive commitment to the regions.

* * * * * *

Further information: Graeme Hallet (Minister's Office) 02-6277 7060

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