House debates

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Questions without Notice

Regional Australia

2:31 pm

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, 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 is in a strong position to recover from the coronavirus pandemic?

2:32 pm

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

I thank the member for Dawson for his question. Whenever there is a crisis such as this, regional Australia gets hit first and gets hit hardest. That said, regional Australia very much pulls its weight whenever there is a crisis in ensuring that the nation gets through it. Regional Australians are doing their bit. This is anecdotal evidence only, but I know that so many have downloaded the app. People have told me that they're downloading the COVIDSafe app. That is encouraging, and I encourage them to encourage other others to do just that. We've put in place measures to assist rural and regional Australia. Agriculture, infrastructure and resources have continued, despite us being, in many cases, housebound. Rural and regional Australians, those who have been able, have certainly been getting out and helping this recovery effort.

We've put in place the international air freight mechanism and twice-weekly flights of Tasmanian salmon to Taiwan. This $110 million measure has ensured twice-weekly flights of Western Australian rock lobster to China and 25 flights with 42 tonnes of lamb out of Melbourne to markets in Dubai, Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

I know on 21 April the minister for regional communications announced the latest round of the Mobile Black Spot Program. There was $34 million announced, the bulk of which will be announced in round 5A. There's one person who knows how important it is to receive texts, no matter where you are, be it regional New South Wales and someone's farm. If you want to send a text to somebody, it's so important that you can both send that text and, indeed, share it with somebody. I know the value of that. I'm sure that all members in this House understand the value of being able to send, receive and, indeed, share texts.

On the Relief and Recovery Fund, in Wagga Wagga on 28 March I announced the $198 million measure for regional airlines. I know how important that's been to ensure regular flights to those 138 centres which would otherwise have been left literally high and dry, stranded, because of COVID-19. There's also the $100 million underwriting programs which have been so valued by those regionally based airlines. There are tourism projects. I heard the member for Grayndler talk about vulnerable artists. I share that view with him. We need to make sure, particularly for regional Australia, their events and their artists are well protected and well covered. That $1 billion relief and recovery effort is doing just that.