Transcript - Minister Catherine King - Regional Budget Statement
I am very pleased to the deliver the Regional Budget Statement on behalf of the Government.
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet – the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples – as well as the Wathaurong people – the traditional owners of the lands I represent – and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
Like almost 30 per cent of Australians, regional Australia is where I call home.
I have represented the regional electorate of Ballarat for over 20 years and I have seen massive change in our regions over that period.
This Budget delivers on our election commitments and provides funds for the Government’s purposeful and targeted approach to investing in regional Australia.
It contains more than 760 initiatives which the Government is delivering to boost regional communities and industries.
It is the first step along the path to create new, sustainable and transparent pathways for funding in regional Australia.
It is about high-quality investments in the right places and with the right priorities. It is driven by our determination to deliver on our election commitments and ensure that our policies and expenditure are focused on productive investments, and that they are fairly delivered across all of regional Australia.
This is a Budget centred on the role the regions play in our nation’s economic growth.
Regions that are as diverse as the people who call them home.
It’s an approach that supports sustainable growth, helping regional communities achieve their potential.
An approach that is driven by communities and lets communities in on the decision-making process.
Built on a foundation of transparency and integrity – and focused on creating jobs, building resilience and unlocking economic growth – the investment we have outlined will support the Government’s ambition of ‘no one held back and no one left behind’.
These measures range across all areas of government responsibility, from infrastructure to health, from energy to education, from social services to tourism, from digital connectivity to defence and from net-zero to First Nations communities.
This is a budget that responsibly faces up to the pressures facing the global and Australian economies, but sets Australia’s regions up for a strong future and to play a significant role in the economy of the nation.
As we sit here today, the statistics for regional Australia tell a good story.
Australia’s regions are home to one in three Australians.
Between June 2020 and June 2021, the population in regional Australia grew by 1.0 per cent or just over 80,000 people.
Over the five years to June 2021, regional coastal areas grew by an average annual rate of 1.4 per cent, regional cities growing by 1.0 per cent and inland country by 0.6 per cent.
In the year to July 2022, regionally-based industries including agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining made up an extraordinary 72 per cent of the value of Australia’s merchandise exports.
Regional Australia is a great place to live, a great place to raise a family, and we always punch above our weight.
I know that first hand, as do so many in this place.
This Budget makes substantial investment in our regions, providing $9.6 billion to deliver our infrastructure election commitments with transparency and integrity.
This includes the delivery of significant priority investments like Cairns Marine Precinct, the Middle Arm marine precinct, logistics hubs in north and central Australia, enabling infrastructure in the Pilbara and our transformative Central Australia Plan.
We are making the regions stronger through a streamlined and re-targeted investment in a nationally significant infrastructure pipeline.
We are starting work on nation building infrastructure by investing $500 million for the corridor acquisition, planning and early works of a Sydney to Central Coast and Newcastle High Speed Rail project following the introduction of legislation to establish the High Speed Rail Authority.
We are delivering safer roads to Tasmanians by investing $540 million to upgrade the Bass Highway, the Tasman Highway and the East and West Tamar Highways.
We are building stronger and more resilient freight connections across our vast country with a new $1.5 billion Freight Highway Upgrade Program, focusing on key freight routes in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia.
$7.7 million to develop common-user infrastructure at the Port of Bundaberg in Queensland to support industry diversification.
We are investing $332 million towards the NT Strategic Roads Package, upgrading the roads that remote communities depend on, like the Santa Teresa Road and the Mereenie Loop.
And we are investing $40 million to upgrade the jetties, wharfs and barges that underpin life in the Torres Strait.
These are just a few of the investments we made across my portfolio.
Not only does this Budget deliver now, but it sets new structures for regional funding well into the future.
I’m not going into the way in which the previous government went about funding decisions today – there are other forums for that – but all regional Australians need to have confidence in regional grants processes.
This Budget replaces the Building Better Regions Fund with $1 billion over three years in two new programs targeted at regional and rural areas.
Community groups and government will be invited to seek support from the Growing Regions Program which will support infrastructure that enhances liveability and supports prosperity, funding projects like arts and cultural centres, sports facilities libraries and airport upgrades.
And through the Regional Precincts and Partnerships Program, the Government will work with states and local councils in a nationally consistent way to invest in larger scale place-based projects aimed at transforming regional and rural centres.
These funds will help drive regional economic prosperity by providing equitable and fair access to funding for capital works for community and economic infrastructure across our regions, rural and regional areas and regional centres.
We know that regional grants programs like this are important.
Many projects that deliver benefits to communities are beyond the scope of constrained regional council and community group budgets.
And to ensure local communities have a say in the future of their own communities, we are delivering ongoing support for the Regional Development Australia network we established when last in government.
Located in 53 regions, RDAs bring together all levels of government, providing local information that supports effective policy development and the delivery of projects that align with regional strategies.
Further, our commitment to a much stronger partnership with local government will support our ability to listen and respond to the needs of regional Australia. Including by partnering with them to provide another $250 million through the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure to upgrade roads.
At the same time as building the transport and community infrastructure regional Australians need, we are investing in the communications infrastructure that they rely on.
Over recent years we have seen just how important high-speed internet connectivity is.
We’ve joined Zoom meetings, we’ve worked from home and many of us have shifted our lives from the cities to the regions.
Digital connectivity is one of the foundations for regional growth in our modern world.
But too many regions have been left behind.
That is why the Australian Government will provide $2.4 billion in equity funding to NBN Co to provide around 90 per cent of the NBN fixed line footprint with access to gigabit broadband speeds by 2025.
As part of this initiative, NBN Co will provide access to full fibre upgrades to approximately 1.5 million additional fibre to the node premises across Australia.
Importantly, over 660,000 of these premises are expected to be located in regional areas. Allowing more workers and more businesses – small and large – to base themselves in regional Australia.
At the same time as building on our proud legacy of the NBN, this Budget delivers our Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia - a five-year, $656 million package that will significantly improve mobile coverage in rural and remote communities that are currently underserved.
It delivers $30 million over three years from 2022-23 to 2024-25 for the On Farm Connectivity Program, enabling farmers to extend connectivity in their fields and take advantage of connected machinery and sensor technology.
And – so we can find out exactly where blackspots are – we are investing $20 million in an independent National Audit of Mobile Coverage to establish an evidence baseline to guide future priorities. The core of this audit will be delivered utilising Australia Post’s transport fleet to ensure all corners of our nation are reached.
Just as we are investing in the future of regional Australia with our communications investments, we are securing their future on the pathway to net-zero.
We will deliver job creating, emissions cutting and price reducing commitments through Rewiring the Nation, the National Energy Transformation Partnership, and the $1.9 billion Powering the Regions Fund.
Up to $3 billion from the National Reconstruction Fund will provide support to ensure regional Australia can harness the economic opportunities of decarbonisation, including green hydrogen and clean energy manufacturing.
Our Net Zero Taskforce will bring together perspectives from communities, state and territory governments, industries and unions to advise the Government on ensuring regional Australians are first to benefit from Australia’s transformation to a renewable energy superpower.
And we are investing in the fuels of the future, including green hydrogen, with:
$100 million to support the Port of Newcastle and the Hunter region becoming hydrogen ready.
And $71.9 million for the Townsville Hydrogen Hub, as part of more than half a billion dollars for regional hydrogen hubs in places like Tasmania, Gladstone and the Pilbara.
Resources and Manufacturing
My hometown was built on mining, and with that came manufacturing, as is the case with so many regional centres across Australia.
Our $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund will support other communities to do the same, helping expand and transform Australia’s industry and economy to secure future prosperity, with a focus on value adding in resources and agriculture, transport, medical science and defence capabilities.
The $50.5 million Australian Critical Minerals Research and Development Hub and $100 million Critical Minerals Development Program will further advance and modernise these sectors, while local industry grants will support specific projects across the country – from Hobart to Ipswich.
And, of course, we will build more trains here with our National Rail Manufacturing Plan – supporting proud manufacturing communities from Ballarat and Bendigo in Victoria to Maryborough up north.
To train the workers needed, we’ll establish Jobs and Skills Australia to precisely map and anticipate skills shortages, as well as delivering 480,000 fee free TAFE vocational education places in key areas across the economy and providing $22.6 million for 29,000 additional in-training support places for apprentices in regional, rural and remote areas
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
This Budget also makes critical investments to protect and grow our Australia’s agricultural, fisheries and forestry sectors.
Investing more money into our biosecurity system, delivering on our election commitments to back the forestry industry, and even beginning the work of planning for the next big dry, with more than $20 million allocated for drought preparedness.
While we create jobs in agriculture, resources and manufacturing – we will protect our environment and natural heritage with investments totaling $1.2 billion by 2030 to protect the Great Barrier Reef and $233.4 million in Kakadu and other National Parks.
We understand that water is the lifeline of regional communities across the country.
Which is why we are delivering on our election commitments to restore and protect rivers and streams across the country, as well as continuing investments in our most important river system – The Murray-Darling Basin – and investing in dams that stack up across the country through the National Water Grid Fund.
At the same time, we well understand the threat that flooding and disasters pose – our thoughts remain with those in crisis now.
The volunteers, council workers, emergency personnel and community on the ground are doing incredible work day and night, preparing and cleaning up.
We have already seen the new National Emergency Management Agency in action, working collaboratively with all levels of government and communities to identify and design appropriate and effective mechanisms for response, recovery and long-term strategies so communities are better positioned to respond to future disasters.
And, to deal with and prepare for the disasters of the future, this Budget establishes the Disaster Ready Fund, investing up to $200 million per year, matched by states and territories where possible, on disaster risk reduction and resilience.
The CSIRO found that for every $1 spent reducing disaster risk saves between $2 – $11 in post-disaster recovery and reconstruction.
The Australian Government also commits $38.3 million over four years from 2022-23 for Disaster Relief Australia to upscale their organisational capacity and operations, providing a significant increase of 5,200 additional volunteers to their existing disaster volunteer workforce by covering the uplift costs associated with recruitment, deployment, equipment and training.
When they are needed, these volunteers will be there.
We make this broad range of investments because regional Australia is so diverse.
When we have heard regional Australia spoken of in the past – or by the previous government – there has been a tendency to pretend that the only thing that matters to us is infrastructure investment and grants spending.
But regional development and regional Australians deserve so much more than that.
We need and deserve access to government support and strong, reliable services that those in the cities can take for granted.
We need affordable housing – which will be added to through our $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund and Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee.
And we need stronger education – giving Regional Australians priority access to 20,000 extra Commonwealth Supported Places at university and $158.5 million worth of measures to address teacher shortages.
Good regional development isn’t just about investing in roads or industries, it is about investing in our people through skills and training. It's investing in our services like Medicare, the NDIS and child care.
After 9 years of cuts and neglect Medicare is in its worst state ever and that’s why we’re investing in Urgent Care Centres, supporting regional GPs, putting nurses in Aged Care homes and investing $185.3 million to attract, support and retain more health into regional and rural communities.
And good regional development is about supporting our veterans through housing, services and work.
Importantly, it is about investing in the future of First Nations communities and righting the wrongs of the past.
That’s why we are committed to enshrining a Voice for Indigenous Australians in our Constitution and further boosting efforts on Closing the Gap between the experience of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, including in regional Australia.
This is a Budget that support Indigenous Australians and the environment through a $636.4 million expansion of the Indigenous Rangers Program, $100 million to upgrade housing in First Nations homelands, as well as support for jobs, healthcare and education in First Nations communities across regional and remote Australia.
The work of reconciliation is unfinished, but this budget commits to advancing the cause.
Our approach to developing Australia’s regions, supported by the investments we are making through this Budget, will harness the wealth of the diverse communities that make up regional Australia.
We are investing in our regions’ people, the places we live in, the services we rely on and the industries that help our economies grow.
We are committed to ensuring regional Australia is at the centre of our nation’s growth and at the forefront of our agenda.
Delivering a better future for all of Australia, and leaving none of us behind.