House debates

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Questions without Notice


2:59 pm

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, 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 is supporting our rural communities doing it tough with the drought biting hard? What are the risks to rural communities of not providing this support?

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 Calare for his question. He, like everyone on this side of the House, understands the importance of backing regional communities doing it tough in this terrible drought. The coalition is committed to helping farmers and graziers through the entire $1.8 million drought package that we have announced to date.

We are helping their local communities as well. As Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government, I am proud to be part of the effort focused particularly on the Drought Communities Program, which is providing some $75 billion to deliver immediate support to the 60 worst-affected council communities and local government areas across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. In the first instance, $1 million will go to each of those 60 councils—with more to come—including the shires of Blayney, Cabonne, Mid-Western Regional and Oberon in the member's electorate of Calare.

The Drought Communities Program gives councils the flexibility to choose the projects that meet local community imperatives. Local leaders making local decisions is what we want to get behind in these tough times. We know their focus is going to be on boosting local projects, local jobs—employing local tradies—and local infrastructure that will, at the end of the day, support local families. I know members on this side of the House want to do that throughout regional Australia, particularly in these tough times. I note that some on the other side are obviously not interested in those doing it tough in drought.

Through the Drought Communities Program, we are already backing 124 specific projects across 23 council areas. This latest $75 million boost will deliver hundreds and hundreds more projects. We are backing these communities. We are backing them through the Drought Communities Program. We are backing them through tax relief. We are, quite obviously, backing them through more jobs. Most especially, we are backing them through more trade deals and opportunities. We are backing them through the Building Better Regions Fund. We are backing them with more jobs through those projects in local communities.

We've spent a fair bit of time in regional Queensland, regional New South Wales and Victoria and regional areas right across the country, and we will do more to support these communities because, without support, they will lose families, they'll lose children at local schools and they might even lose a teacher or two. We must support those local economies, and we will do that. We will do that in towns like Blayney, Gulgong, Oberon, Molong and Calare. We will do it in drought-affected areas right across the country. (Time expired)