Transcript - Regional Budget Statement
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Introduction and the Voice
On behalf of the Government, I am pleased to deliver our second Regional Budget Statement.
I acknowledge the traditional owners on the lands on which we meet – the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples.
I also acknowledge the traditional owners of the many and varied lands, regions and places right across our great country.
I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
For time immemorial, Australia has been defined and cared for by First Nations communities.
Australia, as a nation, has existed for over 120 years.
Not much more than a lifetime.
A blink of an eye in the history of this ancient land.
This year, we can right a historic wrong.
We can recognise that history and provide a voice to those who have been ignored for too long.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is a generous offer, and I encourage all Australians to accept it with the same spirit with which it is made.
Let that be the legacy of this year.
Just as this is the year of constitutional recognition, this budget focuses embedding the hopes and aspirations of regional Australia into our decision making.
From the Top End to Tasmania, from the Pilbara to Capricornia – this is a Budget that recognises that local communities matter.
It is a Budget that responds to the diversity of our regions.
It is a Budget that understands the vital role of our regions and our people play in positioning Australia to take advantage of a transitioning world.
And it is a Budget that demonstrates that this Government is serious about a transparent and evidence-based approach to supporting strong, secure and sustainable regions right across Australia.
This Budget builds on the work that we began in October last year.
It delivers on our commitments to building a better future for all Australians, leaving nobody behind.
This Budget recognises that now is the time to take advantage of the energy transition that is occurring and the unique position our regions are in to grow jobs and economic security.
Delivered at a time when cost of living pressures are hurting Australian households, this Budget recognises the challenges we face and delivers responsible, targeted support to those who need it most.
This Budget recognises the times we are in right now and sets the framework for a better future.
A new approach to regional investment is needed
Our first Budget began the hard work of cleaning up the mess we inherited.
We established solid foundations, delivering on our commitment to more transparency and integrity in regional investment through new programs like the $600 million Growing Regions Program.
It laid the groundwork for a new merit-based approach centred on evidence and more sustainable investments in our regions.
It was a demonstration of our commitment to doing things differently.
This Budget builds on those early efforts by, for the first time, setting clear principles and priorities about how regional investment should be done, across all Government portfolios.
We will do this through collaboration, working closely across all levels of government, and using the latest evidence and data to understand where our investment can make the biggest differences in the lives of regional Australian.
Regional Investment Framework
We are introducing a new Regional Investment Framework – changing the way we think about supporting our regions – which I am proud to release as part of the 2023-24 Budget.
It explains what our priorities are – investing in our people, our places, our services, our industries and local economies – and how we are going to improve these in partnerships with regions and communities.
It offers broad principles and priority focus areas that will provide a consistent approach – across all portfolios and types of investment – to targeting and coordinating investment across regional Australia.
And in recognition that all regions are different, the Framework is flexible – adapting to the unique strengths and challenges across regions.
From those regions forging net zero futures to those recovering from natural disasters – our investment will be responsive to a region and its circumstances.
Of course, all of that means incorporating lived experience from the local level, including through local governments and the network of Regional Development Australia committees.
Because we know to get the right outcomes in the right places, we need to listen to regional communities.
This Framework – and the commitment of this Government to back it in with real action – is a landmark step in putting our regions on a path of long-term economic and social prosperity.
Importantly, this approach will be embedded across portfolios.
While I am honoured to be the minister chiefly responsible for regional development, every Minister and portfolio shares responsibility for supporting and strengthening our regions.
Be it for Communications, Education, Indigenous Australians, Health and Aged Care, Northern Australia, Social Services, Industry or Employment and Workplace Relations – all of my colleagues know that how we invest in regions is crucial to achieving the outcomes we want for our nation.
Through this Budget – guided by the Regional Investment Framework – we’ve collectively made decisions that consider and respond to the needs and opportunities of our regions.
These substantial investments in regional Australia are an investment in a better future for all Australians.
Our first Budget in October included over 220 new packages and individual measures across Government targeted to strengthen regional economies and communities.
This Budget solidifies our support – with another 129 investments and initiatives cementing our commitment to, and ambitions for, regional Australia.
Our new regional investment framework identifies 4 priority areas: investing our services, our people, our places and our industries and local economies.
It lays down a path to targeting investments in those areas, and through it building better, more livable and more prosperous communities.
Let’s start with services.
Quality, accessible services underpin the sustainability and success of communities and regions across Australia.
This Budget delivers additional investments under the National Water Grid Fund, with $197.1 million over 6 years from 2023‑24 allocated towards the construction of three projects to provide safe and reliable water for regional and remote communities. A further $150 million has been allocated towards First Nations water infrastructure projects.
Our support also continues to deliver essential services for communities in Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and the Jervis Bay Territory.
We are investing in digital connectivity, building on the previous Budget’s commitment of $2.2 billion under the Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia
The Government also continues to support connectivity through transport, including the continuation of regional aviation programs like the Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme and a further round of the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program.
When it comes to health services, we are building on our work from October, including an historic $3.5 billion investment to triple the bulk billing incentive, in an immediate injection to support and strengthen the heart of Medicare. This will have particular benefits for communities in regional, rural and remote Australia, where bulk billing incentives go up the most.
The Government is also providing further support for regional Australians and easing cost of living pressures by allowing millions of Australians with stable and chronic diseases to buy 2 months’ worth of medicine for the price of a single prescription. This will particularly support those in regional and remote areas by reducing the number of co-payments they face.
Rural and regional pharmacies will be supported through doubling the funding for the Regional Pharmacy Maintenance Allowance program.
We are investing $142.2 million over five years from 2023-24 to support continued delivery of the National Redress Scheme for Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, as well as providing survivors with access to emotional and practical support in applying to and interacting with the Scheme, with services provided throughout regional Australia.
As part of the Government’s commitment of $589.3 million over 5 years from 2022-23 to implement measures under the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children, regional Australians will benefit from $33.1 million over 4 years from 2023-24 to expand the Family Law Priority Property Pools program to regional areas, and $13.4 million over 2 years from 2023-24 to extend the Lawyer-Assisted Family Law Property Mediation program.
Next, we have people.
This Budget invests in people to build their capabilities and develop regional leadership.
We are targeting investments to ensure that people are safe, supported and backed-in to take up opportunities and participate to their full potential.
We are committed to enshrining a Voice for Indigenous Australians in the constitution and advancing the Closing the Gap agenda.
To support our kids, we have committed $72.4 million over five years from 2022-23 to help address Early Childhood Education and Care workforce shortages, including across regional to very remote Australia, and an additional $40.4 million over 2 years from 2023-24 in funding to schools in Central Australia to enable locally-driven responses that support educational engagement, attendance and learning outcomes.
This Budget tackles the teacher shortage in our regions with a further $9.3 million over four years and builds on the 20,000 additional university places the Government is providing to students underrepresented in our universities, including those from rural and remote Australia.
For those pursuing further education outside the university system, the Government will invest up to $4.1 billion over 5 years in a new National Skills Agreement being negotiated with the states and territories, including over $400 million to support 300,000 fee-free TAFE and VET places from the October Budget.
Third, we have the places that we call home.
This Budget is investing to make the most of regional Australia’s unique and diverse places.
From the bush to the beaches, the Top End to Tasmania, investments need to make the most of Australia’s unique and diverse places across the map.
The Government is continuing to support communities to respond and adapt to challenges in the places they know best. This includes building on the $48.8 million investment in community safety announced by the Prime Minister in January 2023 and $250 million under a landmark plan for A Better, Safer Future for Central Australia, announced in February 2023. The plan reflected the voices of local communities and will be delivered in partnership with them in multiple phases.
Recognising the difficulties many Australians face in accessing secure housing, this budget builds on our $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund by expanding eligibility for the First Home Buyer Guarantee and Regional First Home and increasing the Government’s guarantee of liabilities to the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation – soon to be renamed Housing Australia – by $2 billion.
To ensure regions stay connected throughout the country, the Government is maintaining its strong commitment to a 10-year $120.0 billion infrastructure pipeline while undertaking the necessary reforms to enable for more credible projects selected on the basis of a range of economic and social objectives – including regional connectivity, liveability and safety.
The Government will keep regions connected and safe through ongoing funding for key transport programs including the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, which includes $250.0 million in Phase 4 targeted to non-urban roads, the Bridges Renewal Program, and the Roads to Recovery Program. In addition, 33 Remote Roads Upgrade Pilot projects will be delivered over 2023 and 2024.
We remain committed to Vision Zero – zero deaths and serious injuries due to road crashes, by 2050. This Budget commits over $976 million for new road safety improvements with a focus on regional and remote areas, and pedestrians and cyclists through the Road Safety Program. A further $43.6 million has been committed to the new National Road Safety Action Grants Program over four years from 2022-23.
Importantly, our plan includes measures to progress the development of a nationally consistent, shared set of road safety data. This includes a commitment by the Australian Government to develop a National Road Safety Data Collection and Reporting Framework and minimum national data set.
The Government is also investing to strengthen and protect the unique environmental assets across regions. The October Budget included bringing up to $1.2 billion by 2030 investment for the Great Barrier Reef and further support for Kakadu and other national parks.
As the next phase of the Natural Heritage Trust provided in the October Budget, this Budget allocates $439.2 million of Trust funding to deliver benefits to Australia’s threatened species and protect internationally listed World Heritage properties and Ramsar wetlands.
And recognising that regional Australia is disproportionately affected by natural disasters, it will be supported through disaster risk reduction projects funded under the Disaster Ready Fund, with investment of up to $200 million per year, and $27.4 million to deliver Australia’s first National Climate Risk Assessment and start developing a National Adaptation Plan.
Australia’s flood forecasting and warnings will be improved, with investment of up to $236 million over 10 years from 2023-24 to remediate flood warning infrastructure. More reliable and accurate forecasts will support preparedness in regional areas and enable better informed emergency responses, helping to ease the disruption and damage caused by severe flooding.
To ensure support is available when disasters do hit, an additional $231.8 million in 2023-24 is also being invested for Services Australia to establish a cost-effective emergency response capacity. This will support the delivery of high-quality government services and payments when customers need them most.
And to support the arts and culture to create healthy, engaged and vibrant lives – our people, families and communities will benefit from the Government’s new National Cultural Policy, which commits $286 million over 5 years from 2022-23 to deliver increased investment in arts and culture right across Australia, including additional support for the Regional Arts Fund.
And, finally, we have Industries and Local Economies.
This Budget makes strategic, future-focused investments that recognise the significant contribution Australia’s regions will make to securing a productive and sustainable future for our nation.
We are committed to supporting the transition to Net Zero for our national and regional economies.
Under our $1.9 billion Powering the Regions Fund, we will provide targeted support for regions, sectors, workforces and technologies to drive the transformation to net zero, ensuring regional people participate in the secure and sustainable jobs and industries of the future and build stronger regional economies.
The Government has allocated $2.0 billion to establish a production contract program for green hydrogen and its derivatives.
And our $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund – announced in the October Budget and built on in this one – will diversify and transform Australian industry through targeted investments in priority areas.
The Government will establish a new national Net Zero Authority to help drive the transformation to a clean energy economy and ensure Australia’s regions and workers benefit.
The Authority will work with a range of stakeholders to help key regions, industries, and employers to proactively manage the transition.
The Government’s Net Zero Economy Taskforce has been working to put regional Australia on the front foot for the transformation to a net zero economy – working with local communities, state and territory governments, industries and unions to get this historic challenge and opportunity right.
In resources, this Budget includes an investment of a further $23.4 million over 4 years to support the continued operation of the Critical Minerals Office and $57.1 million over 4 years to establish the Critical Minerals International Partnerships Program.
And recognising the importance of the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors to our regions and to Australia’s economy the 2023-24 Budget invests $1 billion over 4 years from 2023-24 and $286.1 million per year ongoing towards a strong and sustainably funded biosecurity system.
We will invest $40.6 million to continue the Indigenous Ranger Biosecurity Program, supporting a strengthened biosecurity system in northern Australia, as part of an overall $1 billion package over 4 years from 2023–24 to strengthen the national biosecurity system.
To strengthen sustainable farming and natural resource management practices, an investment of $302.1 million over 5 years from 2023-24 through the Natural Heritage Trust will reduce the agriculture sector’s emissions, build climate resilience, enhance market access and improve environmental outcomes.
And we will invest $38.3 million over 4 years from 2023-24, with an additional $7.6 million per year ongoing, to bolster the capability of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, supporting a stronger and more sustainable agriculture sector.
This Budget enshrines our Government’s commitment to ensuring no Australian is held back or left behind.
This Budget takes a well-planned, well targeted and well executed approach to listening to our regions and investing in their unique needs.
This is a Budget that meets the needs of regions and meets the moment we are in.
It takes decisions now that will support and position our regions through this defining decade.
We are backing our regions because our regions are the backbone of Australia’s future.
Through this and subsequent Budgets – and guided by the Regional Investment Framework – our Government will continue the journey, hand-in-hand with communities, towards vibrant and sustainable futures for our regions and our nation.