House debates

Monday, 20 August 2018

Questions without Notice


2:54 pm

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government. Will the minister update the House on how the government are building on our strong track record of supporting rural communities who are doing it tough? What are the alternatives to providing this support?

2:55 pm

Photo of John McVeighJohn McVeigh (Groom, Liberal Party, Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Flynn for his question, because he, like those on this side of the House, understands the importance of backing regional communities, regional jobs, developing regional economies and of course dealing with the challenges of drought in particular across their communities at the moment.

Yesterday, I joined the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources in Forbes and Parkes to announce the second phase, the next phase, of our drought package, a package that now reaches $1.8 billion of assistance across rural and regional communities affected by drought. Part of this phase is a $75 million extension to the Stronger Communities Program. That is all about delivering immediate support to the worst-affected drought communities through their local governments, through their local councils. Initial support of $1 million will be rolled out to 60 councils in Queensland and New South Wales and two in Victoria, because councils need to support those communities.

The drought is certainly being felt very hard on the farm. It's being felt equally hard in town. And that's what this Drought Communities Program is all about. I'm focused on ensuring that councils have the flexibility to prioritise projects in their local communities that will get that economic activity happening: local leaders making local decisions, employing tradies and employing local jobseekers and local subcontractors for local infrastructure projects, community events in tough drought times and, of course, events and activities that will support, particularly, potable water and water for stock use—you name it. Local communities determine drought necessities in these times of challenge.

Under this program, we've already delivered just on 124 projects across 23 councils in what has been a $35 million program to date. Obviously, the $75 million we announced yesterday will boost regional economic activity in drought-affected communities quite significantly—in Narromine, in Blackall, in Forbes, in Charleville, in Moree; proud farming and grazing communities that the Turnbull government is behind and has been supporting. As the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources said, they do not want pity. They want sensible support to help them get through the tough times, such that they can return to leading the charge in supplying significant opportunity and wealth for our national economy from their regional communities.

So I say to those across the chamber: make sure you get behind regional communities as we are. Make sure you acknowledge the importance of the Drought Communities Program, because it's as tough in town as it is on the farm.