House debates

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Regional Australia

2:11 pm

Photo of Pat ConaghanPat Conaghan (Cowper, 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 outline to the House the Morrison-McCormack government's continued commitment to supporting regional Australia through the COVID-19 pandemic?

2:12 pm

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

I thank the member for Cowper for his question. His Mid North Coast electorate is helping the nation recover from COVID-19. Of course, we're still very much in the midst of this global pandemic, and the COVID-19 recession is hurting our nation. It's hurting regional Australia. But regional Australia is not only poised to help the relief and recovery efforts; it's already doing the work—the hard work. Country people are resilient people, and there are none more resilient than those on the Mid North Coast in the member for Cowper's electorate.

When it comes to agriculture, as we heard from the minister for agriculture yesterday, even despite the drought, despite the bushfires and despite COVID-19, it grew from a $60 billion enterprise to $61 billion. Yesterday we heard the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia talking about how, in the June quarter, the resources and mining sector grew by 0.2 per cent. That is significant. That shows that regional Australia is helping the nation through this crisis. Regional Australia will always do that, because regional Australians are resilient, they are courageous and they know how to make a quid. And they know how to do that for and on behalf of this nation.

The Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program is an investment that the federal government has made directly to local government to help them beat COVID-19, to help them put jobs back into their local economies. In the member for Cowper's electorate there are five councils, and they are sharing in the $5.7 million: Bellingen, $594,000; Coffs Harbour, $1.3 million; Kempsey, $1.1 million; Nambucca, $768,000; and Port Macquarie-Hastings, $1.8 million. They will put that to good use. As part of the 1,000 projects already agreed upon and already approved, we're going to see in coming weeks high-vis workers, and excavators pushing dirt around. That means local jobs in the Mid North Coast. That means local procurement for those brave, hardworking small businesses which, honestly, haven't seen in that area too many COVID-19 cases, and yet they have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. We are ensuring, across the nation, the delivery of $100 billion of infrastructure over the next decade. Regional Australia is enjoying the benefits of that—85,000 jobs across the nation. The Pacific Highway Woolgoolga to Ballina section will be completed in coming weeks. That's going to save travel time for people. It's also going to save lives. I know how hard the member for Cowper has fought for the Pacific Highway, and we will certainly look forward to that opening. (Time expired)