House debates

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Regional Australia

2:27 pm

Photo of Damian DrumDamian Drum (Nicholls, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Will the Deputy Prime Minister inform the House how the Morrison-McCormack government is ensuring regional Australia that essential operations continue to function during the coronavirus pandemic?

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Leader of the Nationals) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Congupna kid for his question. I say 'Congupna kid' because, back in the 1980s, when he was recruited by Geelong, he came from that little town of Congupna to play at the games highest level—the Victorian Football League. Back then it was a different era than it is now. He played more than 60 games for Geelong, for the Cats.

Mr Marles interjecting

I hear the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party say, 'Hear, hear!' He's a great Geelong supporter. The member for Nicholls played in an era when it was one in, all in. The coach would get the team before the game and he'd say, 'When the fight's on today, it's one in, all in.' We are now up for the fight of our lives, and it is one in, all in. For every single Australian it is one in, all in because we are all in this together. And it is a fight we will win. We will win it together. We will win using the same axiom that coaches used in the 1980s in the VFL. We need to exercise all of those hygienic handwashing exercises and social distancing.

There are many heroes at the moment: truckies, farmers, even sign language experts. The one standing beside Mark McGowan the other day: I have to give her a shout out. How good was she! How good are the sign language experts. Never have we relied on them so much, so often. But, of course, we've got those frontline health professionals. Whether they're in rural and remote Australia or in capital cities: wherever they are, no matter what they're doing, we thank those doctors, nurses and pharmacists—and the cleaners. We thank them, we rely on them and we'll go on doing that. One in, all in.

There is no shortage for food for families in Australia. I want to assure the House that food security is what it should be. Our farmers, those fantastic heroes of rural and regional Australia, grow enough food to feed 75 million Australians and others besides. That's three times our population. They feed 75 million people every year. One of the challenges, of course, has been finding consistency to ensure that we have ease of access across some of those borders which have been closed—and I thank my state colleagues and territory colleagues as far as transport and infrastructure are concerned. We have been meeting on a bi-weekly basis via teleconference and daily by phone, and never have I got on so well with so many Labor state ministers!

We've also announced a $1 billion relief and recovery fund. There is an additional $100 million to provide direct financial support to smaller regional airlines, and $198 million to subsidise those routes into the 138 or so regional centres which rely on aviation to take vital medical personnel, medicines and all the rest to those important centres.