Editorial - The Land

Regional Australia has done it tough during the past few months.

We've faced drought, bushfires and in some areas, flooding has caused significant damage.

Property has been lost. Far more devastatingly, lives have been lost.

We can rebuild homes, farms and businesses, but we can never replace lives lost and we mourn as a nation for every single family and every single community that has lost a loved one to these tragedies of late.

But as we always do in regional Australia, we get up and we face the adversity.

Just on Monday I was at Riverina Oils, Wagga Wagga, to launch a report into the regional opportunities that Inland Rail will bring.

The Ernst and Young report found the 1700-kilometre corridor of commerce will deliver a $13.3 billion boost to regional economies over 50 years and 2,500 jobs in its 10th year of operation.
But it's also about local businesses. When regional businesses are doing well, regional Australia is doing well.

In these trying times, small businesses need help from their governments. That means keeping cash flowing and people in jobs.

That's why the Federal Government is investing $1 billion to support the sectors in our regions and communities that have been and will be disproportionately impacted.

Industries such as tourism, agriculture and education will get the most help.

Measures will include additional assistance to help businesses identify alternative export markets or supply chains and the promotion of domestic tourism.

The affected industries and communities know best how the government can most effectively help and so further plans and measures to support recovery will be designed and delivered in partnership with them.

Our $17.6 billion economic plan to protect Australians as the world manages the spread of COVID-19 is all about keeping Australians in jobs and helping small- and medium-sized businesses stay in business.

But this is foremost about health.

The federal Government will continue to manage the ongoing situation with the health and wellbeing of Australians the key focus of our efforts.

We implemented early measures to minimise the impact of the virus in Australia and are well prepared. Our approach continues to be precautionary and proactive.

We are fortunate to have a world-class health system which includes mechanisms for effective management of infectious diseases to minimise transmission and mitigate the impact of the outbreak.

The Federal Government is also working constructively with the states and supporting them to roll out bushfire recovery programs even quicker than they have been.

Our newly-launched Bushfire Affected Small Business Rebuild package will ensure small businesses devastated by the recent bushfires receive immediate support tailored to their individual circumstances.

The package offers new initiatives to help local economies recover faster and simplifies access to current assistance programs by cutting red tape.

There is a new $10,000 grant to assist significantly-impacted small businesses in selected local government areas get back on their feet and maintain their businesses. To be eligible, businesses must have experienced a 40 percent drop in revenue over a three-month period, compared to the previous year, as a result of the bushfires.

These are our hardest hit businesses and they deserve every possible support.

We are also working with the States to ensure greater access to concessional loans with fewer documents and fewer security requirements.

The National Bushfire Recovery Agency we established has been doing great work in supporting communities as they rebuild. We are integrating more staff from the agency in recovery hubs to provide help to people to access grants, loans, and other services.

The recovery effort will take not just months, but years. These new initiatives build on a range of existing support measures and we will continue to enact the necessary policies to promote growth in effected regions.

Originally published in The Land, 19 March 2020