Regional ministerial budget statement

In 1835, the settlement of Melbourne started. In 1851, it had 23,000 people.

Then came a mineral inspired growth: the Gold Rush.

Within five years, Melbourne had tripled in size.

Gold drove the whole Victorian economy.

Today, gold would be but a fraction of a per cent of the gross domestic product of the Victorian economy, but things have to start somewhere and they start by the primary inspiration of wealth, in this case from mining.

In 1972, Emerald had a population of around 2,000 people. Then they built Fairbairn Dam of around 1.3 million megalitres. Emerald now has population of about 16,000 people.

Minerals and farming, with the appropriate infrastructure, bring growth on the coast and away from the coast.

As we see with the mining town of Melbourne, because that’s where its wealth initially came from, the Australian economy is a massive economic benefactor from minerals and farming in regional areas.

Eight out of 10 of our largest exports come from regional Australia.

Today, there is another major mining town that absorbed nearly 500,000 people, the population of Tasmania and the Gold Coast, from around 2008 just because of mining. That town is called Perth.

This Government has the vision to utilise wealth from our soil, whether mining or farming, but this must be combined with strategic infrastructure from government to accelerate the growth of our nation.

So, as strong as it already is, Australia must use these resources to become even stronger, and this must happen as quickly as possible.

The Prime Minister says we must talk of the why and the how.

Well, the why is quite clear: turn on your television tonight and you will see the why in the turmoils of Europe.

You will see why when you see the photos of President Sogavare of the Solomon Islands with Xi Jinping from China, negotiating a new naval port 2,000 kilometres from Australia.

Look beside you on the couch, at your children and your grandchildren, and you will see the why.

The Budget is about the how.

To make our nation as strong as possible as quickly as possible, we have invested an extra $7.1 billion in four targeted regions over the next 11 years through our new Energy Security and Regional Development Plan.

And then billions more as a massive investment, but merely a small seed to create a multiplier effect on the growth of our nation.

If we didn’t have the benefits of the regions, Sydney would be a silent city of minimal opportunity.

Investments in infrastructure, low emissions technology and energy production, resources extraction and processing, and water infrastructure will open up new frontiers in agriculture, mining, industry and hydroelectric power.

We will focus on four key regions: the Northern Territory, North and Central Queensland, the Pilbara region in Western Australia, and the Hunter region in New South Wales.

We also have multiple billions to invest elsewhere, but these are the areas we have picked to inspire the growth for the task of creating a stronger nation as quickly as possible.

We don’t have the money to try and trigger every geographic section of our nation at once, so we have to make the strong decision to pick a few.

Turbocharging these regional economies will enable people to get the job they want in a career that we hope takes them and their families to live in the area where they make their money.

Through the Port of Dampier, near the town of Karratha, we are building on the $34 billion worth of private investment by Woodside in gas, and mining wealth from iron ore and tourism, to grow that area by investing in such things as port infrastructure.

If the money is made from the port, make the port bigger.

Likewise, we are investing in Port Hedland, which by tonnage is the biggest export port in the world. When Port Hedland shuts down, our Australian dollar goes down.

Port Hedland, though, has a population of merely 15,000 people. We need areas such as this to become the Gladstones and the Newcastles of our North West.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt has been pushing hard for strategic investment and policy so that these towns grow in economic breadth and depth.

They need to be sustainable in the peaks and troughs which inevitably happen in a mining industry and give us the opportunity to build our Gladstones and our Newcastles in our North West.

If the Pilbara has developed potential, the Northern Territory has undeveloped potential and we must have a vision backed by the investment to develop it. This wealth must also make it to port.

We must invest in the mechanism to get this wealth onto the boat and into a market. We must seal the roads through the desert, through the Tanami. And we are going to do that.

We must have a vision and we must have the strength to deliver it, and we must make sure we have a government with the strength to deliver it.

We are expanding rail between Alice Springs and Darwin. We will build in Alice Springs and Katherine and Tennant Creek new industrial precincts, and we have massive investment in Middle Arm, near Darwin.

We are investing in ports and investing in road, such as the Outback Way – the third sealed road across our nation.

The Outback Way, a sealed road from Townsville to Perth through the centre of Australia, cutting more than 1,000km off an alternate sealed road.

A road that goes through a critical minerals precinct that will have access to Middle Arm in Darwin and Mount Isa in Queensland.

Areas where processing can occur to reduce our reliance on processing that is done overseas, predominately in China, and grow towns in the very centre of our nation.

Critical minerals for everything from your iPhone, to submarines, to batteries, to our Defence Force.

The Assistant Minister for Regional Tourism, Michelle Landry, has often conveyed to me the importance of the Northern Territory through the lens of tourism, and the opportunities it presents.

We have doubled the sealed roads that now go through the centre of our nation.

On the Burdekin, if a Labor government can be believed and has the capacity to stand up to the Greens, we have allowed for them to build one of the biggest dams in Australia.

All they have to do is say the word “Yes”, and Hells Gates Dam will commence, as requested by the City of Townsville.

Sydney Harbour is 435,000 megalitres. This dam will hold 2.1 million megalitres.

As pointed out to me so often by the Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, it will provide 60,000 new hectares, or 150,000 acres, of new irrigation, allowing billions of dollars in new agricultural produce to go toward his goal of making us hit $100 billion in our agricultural industry.

It will easily pay for itself in the lifetime of the people in this Parliament and then continue on producing wealth long after we have all gone.

But not only does it produce agricultural wealth, it also underpins reliable, renewable power through hydroelectricity.

It underpins industry and its requirements for water, such as would be the case if we wish to produce hydrogen, as well as domestic requirements.

Hells Gates Dam will make marginal mineral precincts viable. And that is merely one dam.

We’ve also put money on the table, so the state Labor government doesn’t have to put its hand in its pocket, to build the Urannah Dam. To build another agricultural precinct.

And, once more, we wait to see if a Labor government is as good as its rhetoric that it rolls out before elections.

Can they really stand up to the Greens?

Do they really have the capacity and the vision to build away from Brisbane?

These two dams that I have mentioned were part of their state election platform. In fact, Hells Gates was touted as critical state infrastructure.

So we test their mettle to see whether their blood is red or green.

Paradise Dam, Emu Swamp, Rookwood Weir, Dungowan Dam, Scottsdale Irrigation District in Tasmania, and the refurbishment of capital works in the Murray Darling Basin.

Tasmania has shown clearly what a state government can do when it wants to get to work with the Federal Government. They have been a great success in developing their water infrastructure.

Billions upon billions upon billions of dollars invested, or in the pipeline for water infrastructure before we get to rail and road.

And there is more to come because water is wealth and a dam is a bank.

But this infrastructure can’t be built unless you have governments that are tough enough to understand the circumstances of our current time.

Governments that are tough enough to understand that circumstances have changed and priorities must change with them.

Governments that are tough enough to select winners.

Governments that just don’t read history, but learn from it after watching the television at night and what exactly is going on right now.

Governments that go beyond the rhetoric of saying Governments will create a strong nation, to underpinning their claims with investment as to how.

Historically, rail is a massive driver of investment.

Many believe that Texas was developed by oil, but rail connecting it to the Pacific was instrumental in building the wealth of an area that now has a bigger economy than Australia.

Rail, by its very nature, attracts industry and grows our nation.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer was ridiculed when he drove the construction of the Alice Springs to Darwin railway line.

The viability of the business case was apparently atrocious. Now, the problem is that it is too small and needs to be upgraded. This will be undertaken by our Government.

Pertinent infrastructure grows into its business case, as can be seen with this rail line.

The expansion that we will bring about for this rail line will bring about industrial parks in Alice Springs, in Katherine, in Tennant Creek. It will assist in the defence of our nation and the decentralisation of our nation.

The Inland Rail, which we are building, is the biggest investment project currently underway in Australia. This will more than double the size of Parkes and Narrabri, and will grow Toowoomba.

Running through places such as Euroa, Wangarratta, Glenrowan, Seymour and Benalla, Inland Rail will build on the wealth of that former mining town, Melbourne.

It will grow Brisbane, and my intention is to continue to build it to Gladstone. I am well supported by my Assistant Minister, Kevin Hogan, in my intentions.

The cynics said we would never get the money for the Inland Rail because it had just been talked about for so long.

I note my discussions with the infrastructure minister at the time, the Federal Member for Grayndler, Anthony Albanese, in the first iteration of the Rudd Government. He told me that this rail did not stack up and that it would not stack up for at least 18 years.

Well, we got the first substantial tranche of money for the Inland Rail in 2016. This rail line couldn’t wait for a Labor government that revels in bureaucracy and the inertia and subservience of the Greens at the expense of our future.

The 1,716 kilometres from Melbourne through Brisbane and then a further 660 kilometres from Toowoomba to Gladstone.

From an environmental perspective, Inland Rail will take 200,000 trucks a year off the road by using double-stacked trains up to 3.6 kilometres long, travelling at speeds of up to 115 kilometres an hour.

Gladstone has a further role to play in how we build on this great industrial city’s capacity to underpin our nation’s wealth with a rail line going to Gladstone.

On top of coal and gas, we also have a requirement for our nation to give us sovereignty in fertilizer, yet another issue that is so importantly brought to me by David Littleproud.

Working with Australians who produce fertilizer, whether they are in Queensland or Victoria, will assist the role that Gladstone will play in the further production of this, taking out the inevitable peaks and troughs of mining and levelling it out with a greater investment in the requirements for agriculture.

Bundaberg also needs assistance with agriculture in the exports of sugar and that’s precisely what we intend to do. We will be investing in excess of $7 million to upgrade their port, too.

Nola Marino in her capacity as Assistant Minister for Regional Development is driving better outcomes in this region through the regional development deals, growing the economy and creating jobs and making sure Central Queensland is stronger.

Whether it’s sealing the road from Alice Springs to Halls Creek through the Tanami, or building the railway lines to invigorate the growth of regional Australia, this Government has a plan.

A plan that will drive the development of our regions for decades to come, which will drive the wealth and prosperity and defence of our nation.

This Government understands regional Australia. We are the Coalition for regional Australia.

The Labor Party and the Greens don’t get the regions. They never have. They never will.

They sneer at us when we select a chairman of Infrastructure Australia, who they say is merely a mayor of a regional city, not from the right sandstone university.

In my own electorate, Dungowan Dam underpins 7,000 jobs that will go into the industrial estate of the Global Gateway Park. It also assists in the fundamental standard of living for people who have to deal with almost continual rolling water restrictions.

People in Tamworth have as much right to water their lawn as someone in Turramurra.

Water security is essential, yet again the Labor Party sneers that a regional city should have the same economic aspirations as a capital for that purpose.

Our vision for Tamworth is to make it the largest processor of animal protein in Australia.

You have to have a vision, you have to aim for it, you have to put the mechanisms in place to achieve it and you have to have a government that will back you in to achieve it.

The great state of Victoria is noted for its manufacturing.

The $2 billion Regional Accelerator Program, driven forward by the Minister for Regionalisation and Victorian Senator, Bridget McKenzie, will be a force for its manufacturing growth, for its further capacity, for its further delivery to our nation.

In Shepparton they make food, milk and fabricated metal products. We have seen the investment that this nation has made in Shepparton.

We want to make sure that Australia manufactures more so we are not so reliant on others, which COVID has shown us in bright colours our vulnerabilities when put under stress.

We are making sure we turn the Strzelecki Track into the Strzelecki Road in South Australia. We are building South Australia’s connectivity to the rest of our nation.

We are enhancing South Australia’s connectivity within its own borders and strengthening it with new massive investments to assist the uranium industry.

In New South Wales, we are nearing completion of the duplication of the Pacific Highway.

The Coffs Harbour bypass will remove 12 sets of traffic lights, taking the tourists into town and moving the heavy vehicles out of town.

Our $1.68 billion investment to extend the M1 Pacific Motorway to Raymond Terrace, south of Coffs Harbour, is one of the biggest infrastructure projects the Hunter region has ever seen, and now is backed up with our massive investment, front page of the Newcastle Herald, as we build this region.

It will support growth right across the Hunter and Newcastle regions, boosting productivity, built on a strong, integrated transport network.

We are driving this massive piece of nation-building infrastructure through to completion.

That you could leave Melbourne and drive to north of Gympie, without one traffic light, is a vision that was inspired by former Nationals leaders like Warren Truss and Michael McCormack.

People are moving to regional Australia. This is happening, and thank goodness they are, because for the size of our nation we are so terribly overcentralised.

For example, Central Western New South Wales is critical to the wealth and prosperity of our nation and people are moving to places like Mudgee and Lithgow.

We want to see places like this thriving, and this Government will back growth in these regions through direct participation and inclusion in our Energy Security and Regional Development Plan.

We have shown in the past that we have the capacity to build new cities.

We are in one right now. Canberra was once a couple of sheep properties in a valley on the Molonglo River, and now there are about 435,000 people who live here, so we have proved we can do it.

I appeal to state governments and to people on both sides of this chamber to grasp this vision, not for any individual within this Chamber, but for the sake of the nation as a whole.

We have no time to waste. I repeat that: we have no time to waste.

In circumstances that have become so apparent so recently, we must show to the Australian people that we respect their security by building a stronger nation.

To build a great city like this, it is essential to have the transport infrastructure but you must also have social infrastructure.

Health is paramount. Parents are very hesitant to go anywhere where they or their child can’t get treated quickly.

This Budget allocates $66 million to improve access to critical and life-saving MRI machines in regional areas. This will lower the costs and reduce the need to travel for those imperative, life-saving scans.

This is expected to benefit 40,000 regional, rural and remote patients every year, thanks to the dedication of Regional Health Minister Dr David Gillespie.

Health care is a major priority for people in regional areas and this Budget provides $296.5 million to improve access to doctors, mental health professionals and critical medical equipment outside the cities.

This support will assist in better managing the supply of our medical school graduates, and expand the footprint of health professionals in regional Australia.

In this Budget, the Government is providing nearly $1.3 billion to improve access to mobile and internet communications in regional areas.

Our ambitions include providing 8,000 kilometres of new mobile phone coverage for major transport routes and nearby homes and businesses, as well as improving internet speeds for NBN customers.

Once more, we see the link between national imperative and social benefit.

This means more regional Australians can benefit from the social and economic opportunities that come with improved digital connectivity.

For banking, for checking prices, for immediate communications with finance, with health, with education.

For talking to your friends and calling your family.

For safety if you’re stuck on the side of a road.

Regional education is a huge priority in this Budget, with an additional $320 million dedicated for education facilities, from childcare to universities in regional Australia.

In 1851, this nation started building Melbourne, south of which is the great island of Tasmania where massive investments have happened in roads, health and also in other issues such as the Antarctic division.

Why did we do this? Because above even the resources and the gold, if we wanted to survive as a nation, we had to build it. Now we must do it again. Now we must take the next step.

Having 4,000 kilometres between Perth and Darwin without a city of over 100,000 people is untenable for the security and prosperity of this nation.

Decentralisation to where the wealth is, not merely to where the wealth is spent.

This Government has a vision that will take us forward into the coming decades. It will take us forward stronger, more resilient, and more secure.

We are committing an additional $21 billion to turbocharge our regions in this Budget.

This Budget and the role of regional Australia means that you can have confidence, as you cast your eye beside you to your family sitting on the couch, that we understand the circumstances now so apparent, not only in the world in general, but in our region in particular.

We are doing everything within our powers to become as strong as possible as quickly as possible.