Budget boost to get all Australia back on its feet

As state borders reopen, slowly but surely, we have a huge chance to engineer new economic growth - and it starts in the regions.

Regions have been largely COVID-free. They are home to industries and services which will re-launch our economic future. Our new optimism and growth begins right here.

It all starts with water, the lifeblood of our communities, along with soil preservation and management.

With many regions emerging from a long drought, we're reminded once again of the importance of futureproofing water for communities, for livestock, cropping, for service industries and for mining.

Now, a National Water Grid Authority backed by a talented eight-person advisory panel led by Chris Lynch is setting the scene. Already the Australian government has committed to more than 20 water infrastructure projects across Australia. But there's much, much more we can do and are doing.

It's why in this Budget the government is investing a further $2 billion - more than doubling our investment in one hit - to build the water infrastructure Australia needs and deserves.

New water infrastructure requires states to come on board, given their powers under the Constitution. From Emu Swamp Dam in Queensland's Granite Belt to Wyangala and Dungowan upgrades in NSW through to Victoria's Mitiamo pipeline, work is starting and in some cases complete.

Strong regions mean strong jobs growth. The Regional Australia Institute has upped its analysis to show 45,600 jobs vacancies, good jobs, across the regions right now.

Our tourism sector is doing it tough from COVID but a new $250 million package will help the entire tourism industry get back on its feet. This includes a $200 million injection to the popular Building Better Regions Fund of which $100 million will be dedicated to building tourism-related infrastructure.

To take full advantage of the “new normal” including more work from home, regions must be better connected. Round One of the government's successful Regional Connectivity Program is now being extended to support delivery of reliable, affordable and innovative digital services and technologies in regional Australia.

Aussies know how to work together. Recognising this, the Australian government is committing $100 million over two years to fund Regional Recovery Partnerships to co-ordinate investments with other levels of government to support recovery and growth.

A fresh record has been set for infrastructure investment, now $110 billion over 10 years to build the roads to bring us home sooner and safer, upgrade our railways, deliver the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail corridor of commerce and boost our air transport facilities.

We're encouraging new growth in farm and mining exports and boosting the regional workforce. And as a temporary measure to address the economic challenge of COVID, businesses can take huge advantage of an uncapped instant asset write-off.

Regional Australia is taking a front seat in our drive for new economic growth. The naysayers can take a back seat and watch. Our Budget investments - without new taxes - will help build our great Aussie regions into something even better. The opportunity is there. The opportunity is ours. It's now. And we're going for it.

Originally published in The Daily Telegraph, 8 October 2020