Address to the Regional Australia Institute's Research Insights Program


Good morning everyone.

I’d like to start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the lands where we meet today and from where you are joining us from remotely.

I pay my respects to their Elders past and present, and I extend that respect to any First Nations people in attendance.  

Thanks to the Regional Australia Institute for having me here today, as you come together to discuss how we can collectively build a better future outside of our big cities. 

It’s fantastic to see such a wealth of experience in the room today – and I know that we all have one thing in common.

We love life in our regions – whether that’s the coast where I live, or out on a farm. 

I also know that your work, and your commitment to our regions makes a huge impact.

The Albanese Government values this.

We’re a government that’s committed to working with you, and to ensuring policies for our regions aren’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

We’re focused on making our investments less about the transactional, and more about the transformational.

That starts with listening to practical, ground-up ideas, and lived experience.

And it starts by drawing on detailed data, which can help us identify where the challenges and opportunities in our regions are. 

The Regional Australia Institute plays a key role in this, which is why we’re investing $5 million over three years to support their work.

Work that will support our government make evidence-based decisions that will have a high impact now, and into the future.  

From housing, skills, and service delivery – when we work together, we get the best outcomes for our regional communities.

One of the biggest things people talk to me about is the need for more housing.

Housing is central to building communities, and to attracting and retaining the workforces we need.

We know our regions are growing, with new RAI data showing that close to 40 per cent of our population now live in our regions. 

For so many communities in our regions, including my own, many of our houses were also wiped out from natural disasters – putting additional strain on supply.

We know that we can’t solve housing shortages overnight, but we’re getting on with the job.

We’ve invested $32 billion in housing initiatives since 2022 – the biggest investment in over a decade.

1.2 million new homes to be built over the next five years, including many in our regions.

Central to our plan is working with all levels of government – because we all play a role in this.

As a former Councillor and Mayor in the Bega Valley, I recognise the importance of having local government at the table on housing. 

It’s why we launched our Housing Support Program, which will support local government – and our state and territory governments, to get that enabling infrastructure underway.   

This will boost planning and delivery capacity – to kickstart building more homes sooner.

We’ve expanded eligibility for policies like the Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee.

I’m pleased to say this has already supported more than 18,000 people into home ownership in our regions.

It’s supporting people start a family and build a life outside of our big cities.

Of course, building houses starts with tradies – and it’s no secret, they’re hard to come by at the moment.

It’s why we’re delivering an additional 20,000 fee-free TAFE places in the construction sector.

This builds on the 24,000 fee-free construction sector places secured to date.

Across vocations, we’ve already supported 100,000 regional people secured fee-free TAFE.

Adding an additional 300,000 places nationally through to 2026 will see that regional number continue to grow. 

This is part of our $4.1 billion investment, over five-years, to boost vocational education.

This has been welcomed by small business owners – and will support them to bring on the staff they need, to provide the services we all love.

We want regional people to build skills in their own backyard, and continue to work in their local community.

That’s why we’re also delivering 20 additional Regional Study Hubs, so people don’t have to move hours away from home to study like I did.  

It’s not just established sectors that need more skilled workers.

Right now, there’s a number of industries in our regions undergoing transitions.

We want to support people reskill, and to seize the opportunities that come with this.

We’re investing around $600 million in the 2024-25 Budget to bolster skills growth and development in clean energy, construction, and manufacturing. 

Opportunities in these sectors, particularly our net zero future, is something regional people often speak to me about.  

Landowners and businesses want to be on the front foot of this – and so do we.

For a long time, there was little-to-no consultation with communities.

Jobs impacted, livelihoods altered – and the first time communities would hear about this was in the media.

That’s why the Albanese Government is working with communities, and putting them at the centre of our successful transition.

This includes $20.7 million to ensure best practice engagement with local communities and landholders as new renewables are installed across the country.

There’s nothing worse than decisions being made for you from Canberra – without consultation, something we’re changing. 

This is part of our proud record of standing up for regional people.

I’ve given you a number of figures this morning – but you’ll be pleased to know I’m going to recite my entire Regional Ministerial Budget Statement.

I do want to highlight some key measures in our third Budget though.

Some of which I know the RAI have been strong advocates for – which is why I’m so pleased we’re delivering them.

A budget focused on uplifting our regions, improving access to services, and to securing a Future Made in Australia.

The regions are front and centre of our $22.7 billion Future Made in Australia plan.

A plan that will leverage our world-class resources, and ensure we make more things in our own backyard.

This will grow regional economies, and boost employment opportunities.

We’re continuing to respond to the urgent need to improve healthcare in our regions – something everyone in our regions has called for.

$116.2 million over five years to strengthen and support our health workforce, along with more rural GP training places this year.

This is on top of continued incentives for doctors and nurses to work in our regions – by waiving their HECS. 

$3.5 billion to triple the bulk billing incentive, significant investment in Medicare Urgent Care Clinics, and expanded mental health services.

24,100 Home Care Packages, to support people live independently for longer, and to reduce wait times – which will have huge benefits in our regions.

And $48.4 million towards Veterans’ Home Care and Community Nursing programs – because Labor will always stand up and support our veterans.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a regional speech without mentioning our record investment in local roads.

We’re progressively doubling Roads to Recovery to $1 billion per year.

We’re increasing Road Black Spot funding from $110 million to $150 million per year.

And we’re rolling out our new, $200 million Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Program.

We’re a government creating the environments for regional business and industries to innovate and grow, through a future made in Australia. 

We’re a government responding to pressures felt today, while ensuring we are on the right track to achieve the potential of tomorrow. 

Every one of you in the room play a key role in building a better future in our regions – through your unique experiences and your continued innovation. 

Thank you for this – and for working with us to make our regions stronger.

Thanks again to the RAI for hosting this event and for inviting me to speak.

I wish you all the best for today.