Thursday, 8 October 2020
Eden-Monaro Electorate: Budget
If the feedback to my office is anything to go by, Eden-Monaro locals are giving the 2020 budget the thumbs down. Despite the hype of this being the infrastructure budget, I'm disappointed to say that there was not one big infrastructure project announced in the Morrison budget for Eden-Monaro. The budget includes announcements for road upgrades, water infrastructure and national parks in what seems like every electorate but the mighty Eden-Monaro. We should have seen funding for projects like the Princes Highway, the Barton Highway, Dunns Creek Road, Brogo Dam and the off-stream water storage at Bodalla. Aside from a lack of major infrastructure projects, the budget also fails to create a plan for social housing or better child care, and has no plan for renewables. It seems we have to keep fighting for our fair share while rebuilding our shattered communities following drought, bushfires, floods and COVID-19.
A lady named Lois wrote to my office this week. She said: 'I don't even live in Eden-Monaro, but when listening to the list of projects for regional areas who have suffered due to drought, fires and pandemic, I wondered why this area was not included. Such horrendous devastation.' Similarly, Kate writes: 'Please hold the federal government to account for the bushfire funding which has not materialised. Mr Morrison promised to support those decimated by the fires but has made it near impossible for the affected people to access funds.' Then there's Graham at Cobargo, who said, 'Those of us without roofs simply have not seen any spend that directly assists.'
The government will point to the millions in bushfire assistance it says was spent prior to the budget. But what is the point of those funds if the people who need them aren't feeling the benefit of them? This week's budget will be remembered as another blow inflicted on Eden-Monaro in 2020. But what hurts most is that this pain isn't being inflicted by Mother Nature but by a government elected to govern for all. This budget is missing the vision, the hope and the passion for our future that Eden-Monaro needs right now, that Australia needs right now. It's an opportunity lost.
What I heard during the recent Eden-Monaro by-election was that people want and expect more from their leaders. People rightly want leaders to work together for the good of the community and not out of self-interest. People had hoped that the challenges of 2020 and the self-reflection that has come with that might result in a reset of politics. Late last month, the Deputy Prime Minister announced $100 million to assist 10 regions. Mr McCormack said the eligible regions had been chosen because:
… they are regions whose economies have experienced the brunt of natural events such as bushfires, or COVID-19, drought as well.
I applaud the announcement. Each and every one of these regions no doubt deserves the investment, and I welcome the inclusion of the Snowy Mountains. But Batlow, Cobargo, Nerrigundah, Braidwood and many other surrounding communities are all asking: 'What about the rest of Eden-Monaro? With over 750 homes lost, over 2,000 sheds and outbuildings destroyed, thousands of kilometres of fencing and livestock torched, not forgetting the fruit tree and forestry losses, the downturn in tourism, retail and hospitality income, and the loss of lives and livelihoods, why aren't we included in this funding? Is this payback for a Labor win in Eden-Monaro?' This is hardly the way people want and need politics carried out post 2020.
I ask the Deputy Prime Minister: please don't let politics get in the way of truly assisting the regions that are hurting the most. Come and talk to our communities. See for yourself how hard people are doing it. Come and hear the ideas being offered by our chambers of commerce, our service organisations, artists and environmental groups, who are all developing plans for their local future. Mr McCormack, these are the very projects and initiatives your funding should be supporting. If it's because of the colours I wear, I will stay away from announcements and ribbon cutting. Just do the right thing by our region and do the right thing for our country. 2020 has got to count. This year needs to be remembered for more than the heartache and loss. It needs to be the year where we really do advance Australia fair.