House debates

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Matters of Public Importance

Rural and Regional Australia

4:14 pm

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories) Share this | Hansard source

It's awful to be in this place and listen to that long, miserable diatribe from the opposition. If anyone tuned in to get a sense of what's really going on in regional Australia, all they would hear is this long, tedious, miserable series of negative statements. Member for Hunter, you've got to gee them up. You've got to generate some enthusiasm among your troops for what it's like to live, work and raise a family in rural and regional Australia, because the government members who actually do those things—and I've got many in the House with me today—celebrate the good. You will understand that very well, Deputy Speaker Hogan, given your location on the northern New South Wales coast. The member for Capricornia is sitting at the table. Frequently I meet with people in her shires, and what they paint for me is a picture of growing optimism, growing infrastructure and growing confidence. I don't think that would exist if those opposite were sitting here on the treasury bench.

On the weekend, typically for me, I travelled to celebrate a million-dollar investment in Yarrawonga Manufactured Housing. Under a massive cover in a small town on the Murray, we are building cabin-style accommodation, temporary affordable housing, that can be transported all around the country: to remote communities, to Indigenous communities, to lifestyle villages. It's all happening there. We're seeing investment in trades and in training, and the young people coming to town talk to me about the confidence they have in this government. It's the reason they feel they can move their families there—cue our decentralisation agenda!

Then I went through some outback country, towards Hay, to talk to farmers, and of course we talked about the drought. But they are there for the long term and they love where they live. I then went to a salami festival in a place called Euston, quite close to Mildura, where we celebrated the diversity of the Italian culture that's made that region so special. There were lots of different salamis there! But there were also lots of markets. There were people selling beer and gin. In fact, there was somebody who has one of those boutique gin distilleries in Mildura, in the member for Mallee's electorate. He was in a Hawaiian shirt, with a bowler hat, riding around on a trike and handing out some very nice gin. That's small business. He has the confidence to do what he's doing and know that this government will back him.

The government deliver for every single rural and regional Australian through our rural and regional members. We are rolling out a $75 billion 10-year program of investment, and one of the biggest infrastructure investments is the $8 billion Inland Rail. If you're someone who lives on the eastern seaboard, you might not see the relevance of this, important though your local commute to work is. But if you live in my electorate—and much of eastern Australia—you know the government has its eye on the future, because we will have an effective rail corridor running between Melbourne and Brisbane, through our regions, with good branch rail networks so we can deliver our produce to that network to go to the port of Brisbane, the port of Melbourne and in between.

As I said: small business. We've put in place the lowest tax rate in 78 years. Millions of small and medium-sized businesses across Australia, 20,000 in my electorate alone, will pay less tax five years sooner with new laws fast-tracking tax relief for the sector passing the parliament today. We've extended the $20,000 instant asset write-off. Over 4,000 businesses in the electorate of Farrer are taking advantage of this, and my region is no exception.

Communications? Yes, we can do more. I'd love to see more. I'm at the front line demanding more, as are all my rural and regional colleagues. But we remember the six years when Labor was in power. We didn't have a single mobile phone station anywhere for a whole six years. We've got a lot of catching up to do. We're getting there.

If you want to represent the regions, you have to live in the regions. I'm not saying I take a single vote for granted in my electorate of Farrer, and I know my colleagues don't in their electorates. If you don't know your rural and regional member of parliament—who they are, their face, their reputation—and don't have a sense of what they do then that member of parliament probably isn't doing a good job. You know you can't get away with it in regional Australia. That's why we work so hard: because we love what we do; we love the people we represent. We don't need the negativity that comes piling on with the pure political opportunism that we've heard in the debate on this motion. It's late on a Thursday afternoon and it's all about how awful it is in regional Australia. That would be the take-home message from anyone listening this afternoon. It's not our message.

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