House debates

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Questions without Notice

Regional Australia

2:10 pm

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

My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Will the Deputy Prime Minister inform the House how the Morrison-McCormack government is continuing to build resilience in regional Australia to help it bounce back from drought, bushfires and now the COVID-19 pandemic?

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

The member for Mallee, in her 90-second statement, spoke about those wonderful farmers who, for the first time in many years, are planting a crop. Indeed, when I drove over here on Monday night—late, as it was—every third or fourth paddock had lights on it. There were farmers out there busy turning the soil with their scarifiers, planting seed and making sure that there was fertiliser out. They were planting their first crops, in many cases, for many years. We exalt, we honour and we acknowledge those farmers, those brave primary producers, making sure that they're going to get their first crops after years of drought. Many of them, of course, had their rural communities affected by bushfires and, of course, now regional Australia—like the rest of the nation and the rest of the world—is affected by COVID-19.

But the member for Nicholls asked me about regional Australia and its response to COVID-19. We are fighting back through the National Bushfire Recovery Agency. We heard the member for Maranoa, the minister for emergency management, give his ministerial statement and say what we are doing to help those fire ravaged communities. We've provided $8 billion towards drought relief and recovery efforts. We're continuing to do that, with $2 billion through the bushfire agency. Certainly in the member for Nicholls' electorate, we are getting on with the job of building the infrastructure that those regional Victorians need, want, expect and, most of all—and I'm sure the member for Nicholls would agree with me—deserve.

I'll reference a couple of quotes out of that fine electorate, represented by that fine representative. Rebecca Coates is the director of the new Shepparton Art Museum, or SAM. She said:

… what that building will encapsulate for people is a reflection of aspirations." It will be about presence, strength of character and a sense of pride and place …

We know that Shepparton is one of those communities which always punches well above its weight. It's a wonderful irrigation community. Its primary producers export to the world. We also want those on the arts side—whether it's events or whether it's artists themselves—to be their best selves. SAM will do just that.

Then we go to the general manager of Kreskas Bros, a wonderful transport company in the member's electorate. Peter Hill said: 'Fuel is the single biggest cost. I applaud and fully support the government's freeze on fuel excise. This means, during this difficult period, extra costs will be saved along the whole supply chain, keeping prices down for customers and producers. The freeze on excise also means we can operate the business with confidence and keep all of our staff employed.' That's what it's about. Whether it's jobseeker, JobKeeper or the initiatives that we've had with drought, fire and COVID, it's about keeping people in work and keeping those family owned enterprises in regional Australia thriving.