Thursday, 18 October 2018
Matters of Public Importance
Rural and Regional Australia
I do wonder what the member for Braddon was consuming before she came into the chamber, because some of the things she said were quite outrageous, particularly about the NBN. I know you haven't been around that long, Member for Braddon, but if you read your history you will find that the Howard government actually put $2 billion into a telecommunications fund for the future of the rural telecommunications industry. It was the very first thing that Kevin Rudd hoovered up to build his NBN, which he said he would build for $4.5 billion. I might point out that for the mining communities on the western side of Tasmania your side of politics proposed that it be delivered by satellite. We have done exactly the same on that front.
The coalition believes in regional Australia and that's why we provide good policy. Since the change of government in 2013, I can tell you that I have noticed a difference of the first order in my electorate—whether it be the significant steps taken very quickly by then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to make sure that the steel industry survived in Whyalla. It is a very important industry. We have a new owner and we are going to knock the spots off that place, and the government stands ready to help Sandhu Gupta with his vision in Whyalla. Or whether it be the duplication of the Joy Baluch AM Bridge in Port Augusta, something I'm sure you know about, Deputy Speaker Hogan, because that's exactly where you come from. The $200 billion that will fix up this bottleneck and safety valve for Port Augusta comes from this government. The dual lanes straight through the middle of Port Wakefield and the overpass on the northern side show that this government has an absolute vision for those who live in the country. The Regional Jobs and Investment Packages, the $20 million that went into the Upper Spencer Gulf as a depressed region—we are backing businesses to employ more people and grow their businesses. There is the BBRF, the Building Better Regions Fund, which has contributed more than $40 million into my electorate and there is the Mobile Black Spot Program. The mobile black spots were raised by the other side of the chamber—they said it was their money that built it. Good grief, give me a break! Not one mobile phone tower was delivered by that side of the chamber when they were in government for six years. We have put $120 million into that project and we'll deliver over 800 new towers.
I'm very proud to say that I was a farmer before I came into this place. It is in agriculture, the underlying industry that finances regional Australia, that I think the government has done some of its finest work. We had the ag white paper and we have doubled the FMDs. Incidentally, the Farm Management Deposits were instigated by the Howard government. We've doubled the limits. We have brought the banks on board to allow offset against farm loans. We've accelerated the deductibility on water, fodder and new fencing. Let me tell you a story about fodder. We're pretty short of fodder at the moment and I know some farmers who invested in a big way to store a lot of hay. They have sold a lot of the hay and made a lot of money and the farmer said to me the other day, 'Do you know what we're going to do? Next time we get a good season we're going to use the money we made out of that lot to build more sheds and store more hay for the next drought.' That's what good policy delivers: good decisions on the ground. We've had the $20,000 instant tax write-off and the FTAs with China, South Korea and Japan. It's cleaned up the wine backlog—the wine glut. We've cleaned out those stocks, and the wine industry is once again soaring high. That's a very good thing for South Australia.
We've moved well on drought. We have farm household support and the then Prime Minister announced that we would have $12,000 per farming couple as a cash bonus over the next 12 months. We've delivered extra money to allow people to apply for farm household support. We've got the drought concessional loans. We've got the farm finance concessional loans. We've put extra money into support for mental health for farmers who are under pressure at the moment. Because the members of parliament on this side of the chamber represent the vast bulk of regional Australia, we understand regional Australia. That's why we deliver good policy for regional Australia. That's why we have delivered great outcomes. I have really noticed what the last five years have been like compared with the six years before that. There has been a vast improvement.