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Anderson's mission is impossible to believe

Anderson's Mission Is Impossible To Believe


Martin Ferguson - Shadow Minister for Regional Development


Media Statement - 2 March 2000


The Howard Government has failed to produce positive policies to assist vast numbers of people in rural and regional Australia, Shadow Regional Development Minister, Martin Ferguson, said today.


Regional labour force figures released today reveal there are 220 key areas across Australia with double-digit unemployment and tens of thousands of frustrated and angry people unable to get permanent work.


Today's figures follow comments by Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson that the Howard Government has not in fact withdrawn services from regional Australia, and that he has always been committed to regional development.


"Mr Anderson's pledge today at the Outlook 2000 conference in Canberra that his political mission was to 'meet the reasonable expectations of country people' is literally impossible to believe," Mr Ferguson said.


"The Howard Government is pretending that it cares about regional Australia, but its actions tell a very different story."


Since 1996, the Howard Government has:


• abolished the Office of Regional Development, proudly declaring that there is no role for a national Government in regional development;

• slashed 32,000 jobs - a fifth of the Commonwealth Public Service;

• shed at least another 40,000 jobs from Telstra in preparation for various sell-offs;

• slashed $2.1 billion from labour market programs, many of which are in rural and regional areas.


While Mr Anderson says he wants to forge a 'new partnership for growth between rural communities and all levels of government', it is clear his Prime Minister does not share this view," Mr Ferguson said.


"On 7 February, 2000, Mr Howard told the ABC that he 'can't be accountable for state government services'.*


"One of the Government's own backbenchers, the Member for Hume, Alby Schultz, has called for the regional portfolio to be taken from Mr Anderson because he is not up to it.


"Another backbencher, the member for Groom, Ian MacFarlane, has criticised his own Government, saying it has 'really failed to nail down any success in terms of regional development and moving regional issues forward'.**


"The Deputy Prime Minister's speech today has once again raised the expectations of people in rural and regional Australia. Unfortunately, given his record so far, it is very unlikely that he will be able to deliver."


*PRIME MINISTER: "Well, I am talking about Commonwealth services. I can't be accountable for State government services. And one of the things that I have told audience after audience is that they should make the three levels of government accountable for the things that they provide and not allow one level of government to say: well, I can't do that because another level of government is not doing its part. I'll be held accountable for Commonwealth Government services. 

[ABC Radio, Country Hour, 7 February 2000].


**IAN MACFARLANE told ABC Radio's AM program on December 15, 1999: "I don't care what anyone says, this government, the previous government and a string of governments have really failed to nail down any success in terms of regional development and moving regional issues forward.


Authorised by Gary Gray, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.