Partnership for Regional Growth

Media Release

JB049/2015

12 May 2015

Joint release with:

Warren Truss

Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development

The 2015–16 Budget is part of the Commonwealth Government's plan to build a strong, safe and prosperous future for all Australians.

The Government is committed to improving vital infrastructure and services in communities across regional Australia. Funding will continue to be targeted towards projects with a long term positive impact on the social and economic infrastructure of communities.

The 2015–16 Regional Ministerial Statement, Partnership for Regional Growth, was released tonight. The Statement highlights all Australian Government measures which impact regional Australia.

The Budget is about building jobs, growth and opportunity and providing a credible path to surplus. The Government is delivering support to farmers, farm businesses and rural communities in drought-affected areas across Australia but is also facilitating investment in longer term preparedness measures. The 2015 Budget delivers more than $400 million in targeted support for farmers and communities impacted by drought including:

  • $35 million for shovel-ready, local infrastructure and employment projects. Funding will be targeted at projects that offer the greatest potential to stimulate local spending, use local resources and provide lasting benefit to the community.
  • $25.8 million for programmes to manage pest animals and weeds in drought-affected areas. This measure will provide work for rural contractors while assisting landowners to deal with the impact of feral animals on livestock and pasture.
  • $20 million to expand existing social and community support programmes. This additional funding will improve access to mental health support and counselling services for drought- affected families and communities.
  • $1.8 million to fund additional rural financial counsellors in drought-affected areas.
  • $250 million in 2015–16 to continue access to existing drought specific concessional loans schemes.
  • $70 million to enable primary producers to claim more favourable accelerated depreciation for water facilities, fodder assets and fencing, allowing farmers to more effectively store and use water and fodder to better manage periods of drought and fully deduct the cost of fencing in the year it is purchased.

A new $100 million fund for Improving Northern Cattle Supply Chains will make targeted upgrades to key roads necessary for transporting cattle. Through the Fund, the Government will help to boost regional business productivity, including for livestock transporters, and pastoral and processor businesses. This will underpin the future viability of the cattle industry which has long been a pillar of the northern economy.

The Digital Transformation Agenda, the Government's E-Government and Digital Economy, Convenient Services Anytime Anywhere election commitment, is an ambitious plan to reform the design and delivery of government services and information so these are easy to find, simple to use and convenient to access in a safe and secure way. This will benefit individuals and businesses in regional Australia.

Funding under the National Stronger Regions Fund will begin from 2015–16 with the first 51 successful projects to support priority economic and infrastructure areas, from freight and transport projects to convention centres and major multi-purpose sports facilities. $1 billion is available under the Fund for community projects over five years, with a major focus on strengthening regional economies by improving the productivity, employment and workforce skills of Australians. Over $200 million will be allocated in 2015–16.

The Bridges Renewal Programme will contribute to the productivity of bridges serving local communities, and facilitate higher productivity vehicle access, by investing $300 million over 4 years from 2015–16 to renewing our nation's bridges. Applications for Round Two of the programme will open in the coming months. Funding of $113.7 million for 73 projects under Round One of the Programme was announced in February 2015.

The Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Programme will continue to fund infrastructure projects across Australia to improve the productivity and safety outcomes of heavy vehicle operations. It will do this by enhancing the capacity of existing roads, improving connections to freight networks and through projects such as rest stops and decoupling bays. The Australian Government committed a further $200.0 million from 2014–15 to 2018–19. Funding of $96.0 million for 53 projects under Round Four of the Programme was announced in March 2015.

The Roads to Recovery Programme will continue to support the construction and maintenance of local roads with $350 million allocated annually (until 2018–19), as well as a double allocation with an extra $350 million being funded in 2015–16. More than 2,300 projects have already been listed for funding under the current 2014–2019 programme.

The Black Spot Programme will continue to reduce crashes on our roads with $60 million allocated annually to target dangerous areas where crashes are occurring. We are almost tripling Black Spot funding for the next two years with an extra $100 million being allocated in 2015–16 and 2016–17 to accelerate road safety improvements. A total of 382 projects across five states and territories have already been announced for 2015–16, with further announcements to be made in coming weeks.

The Australian Government will continue to support local governments with Financial Assistance Grants. Over three years, the Australian Government will provide an estimated $2.3 billion each year to councils across Australia. These funds will be untied, allowing councils to prioritise funding based on community need—whether to infrastructure, health, recreation, environment or employment projects. $2.3 billion will be allocated in 2015–16.

The Government will continue to provide funding for Regional Development Australia committees to support the economic development of their regions. Committees across the nation will receive $73.3 million over four years. The allocation for 2015–16 will be $18.3 million. The RDA national network of 55 committees is staffed by committee based network of community leaders who work with all levels of government, business and community groups to develop priority activities to drive economic development and enhance awareness of Australian Government programmes.

The Government's new Stronger Communities Programme will provide $45 million over two years to fund small capital projects in local communities. Funding of $150,000 per year over two years, commencing in 2015–16, will be available to support projects that deliver social benefits in Australia's local communities. Grants of between $1,000 and $20,000 will be made available to reputable, not-for-profit organisations for projects that will deliver social benefits and can be delivered within the two-year timeframe of the programme.

Access for remote communities will be improved with an extra $39.6 million for airstrip upgrades and additional essential air services under two funding components of the Regional Aviation Access Programme. Safety and access at remote airstrips will be improved by $33.7 million in increased expenditure over the next four years under the Remote Airstrip Upgrade funding component. This is in addition to an extra $5.9 million over three years to support the existing network of essential flights the Government provides to remote communities.

The Government will continue to provide $1 million each year over the next four years to assist scheduled passenger services to regional and remote communities through the Enroute Charges Payment Scheme. This part of the Scheme was announced on 15 September last year. This is on top of the $1 million each year allocated to also supporting vital aeromedical services in those areas.

The Scheme provides assistance based on the enroute navigation charges levied by Airservices Australia. For existing routes, assistance will equate to 60 per cent of the enroute charge for an eligible flight, with assistance of 100 per cent of the charge available for new passenger routes for up to three years. Aeromedical flights also receive assistance of 100 per cent of the charge. The Scheme encourages the growth of regional aviation services across Australia and expansion of the current network and is an important part of our policy to improve services for country people.

In recognition of both the Sunshine Coast and Townsville airports as Emerging International Airports, the Government will provide $26.2 million over four years from 2015–16 to deliver border security.

The Australian Government is committed to completing the National Broadband Network (NBN) and ensuring all Australians have access to very fast broadband as soon as possible, at affordable prices, and at least cost to taxpayers. The coming year will see major improvements in nbn™ coverage across the country. The nbn™ is available to 913,000 premises nationwide with work underway in areas covering an additional 725,000 premises. By September 2016, more than three million homes and businesses are expected to have an nbn service in place or under construction.

The nbn™ will also launch its two next generation, KA-band satellites in 2015–16, which will revolutionise broadband services for the bush, offering speeds and data allowances vastly in excess of what is available on previous satellite services.

The Government is also delivering on its commitment to improve mobile coverage in regional Australia. The Government is assessing the applications received for the $100 million Mobile Black Spot Programme, and expects to announce the successful locations by 30 June 2015. The first base stations funded under the programme are expected to begin to roll out in the second half of 2015 and construction will take place over a three-year period.

The Rural Research and Development for Profit programme implements the Australian Government's election commitment to invest an additional $100 million in rural research and development over four years from 2014–15. Grants under the first funding round for the programme have been announced and it is expected that there will be at least one further round. $29.24 million is available for grants in 2015–16.

The delivery of the Green Army is a key Australian Government election commitment that will create Australia's largest-ever environmental workforce. The 2015 Budget delivers an increase in funding of $179 million over four years compared to last year's Budget as part of the Government's commitment to continue growing the Green Army. We have already established Australia's largest- ever on-ground environmental workforce and we will continue to support the Green Army programme with funding of $704 million over the forward estimates. We will deliver on our commitment to grow the number of Green Army teams to 1,500 by 2018. The Green Army is already a genuine success story that is having positive impacts on the environment and on the lives of participants.

The new $5.5 billion Growing Jobs and Small Business package will help small businesses invest more, grow more and employ more. This package will help employers create jobs and assist Australia's unemployed, particularly unemployed youth, to build the skills to get into work. This is the biggest small business initiative in our nation's history. The Government is committed to ensuring Australia is the very best place to start and grow a small business.

At the heart of the Growing Jobs and Small Business package are tax cuts for over 2 million Australian small businesses to help drive investment and employment across our economy.

The 2015–16 Budget delivers $3.25 billion in tax cuts for small business and $1.75 billion in accelerated depreciation measures, in addition to the benefits Australian small businesses are gaining from the abolition of the carbon tax. Australian small businesses will have the lowest company tax rate for public and private companies since 1967.

The Growing Jobs and Small Business package also includes measures to reduce the red tape and regulatory impediments that hinder small businesses growth, encourages business start-ups and entrepreneurship and helps employers to take on inexperienced and mature workers.

The Government is already investing $6.8 billion to establish jobactive to improve the quality of services delivered to job seekers and employers. The new jobactive system will be focused on results and reward performance not process. We will have a $1.2 billion pool for wage subsidies to support employers to provide job opportunities and assist job seekers into work.

The Government will also deliver a $331 million Youth Employment Strategy, an $18 million National Work Experience programme, and changes to Restart will make it easier for small businesses to receive Government support when they employ older workers.

The Government's $4.4 billion Jobs for Families package will give parents more choice and opportunity to work.

The package will provide greater choice for more than 1.2 million families by delivering a simpler, more affordable, more flexible and more accessible child care system. The Government will establish a new and simpler Child Care Subsidy from 1 July 2017. Families using child care in 2017, on family incomes of between $65,000 and $170,000 will be around $30 a week better off. Those on higher incomes will, on average, continue to receive the same level of support.

Families on incomes of less than $65,000 per year will receive ongoing access to early childhood learning, and can be eligible for additional financial support through the Child Care Safety Net.

More affordable access to quality child care puts the opportunity of work within the reach of more families.

The package will deliver significant reform, putting downward pressure on child care costs. This package reforms the inflationary system in place under Labor, which saw child care fees increase by over 50% between 2007 and 2013.