House debates

Monday, 30 November 2020

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Regional Australia

2:27 pm

Photo of Anne WebsterAnne Webster (Mallee, 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 please inform the House how the Morrison-McCormack government's investment in rural and regional infrastructure is underpinning Australia's economic comeback from the COVID-19 pandemic?

2:28 pm

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

I thank the member for Mallee for her question. She has worked very, very hard for her regional Victorians in the face of some restrictions in Melbourne. Regional Victorians have done the nation proud. They certainly make sure that they punch above their weight when it comes to agricultural output and economic benefit to this nation. Our comeback from COVID-19 is being driven by regional Australia, by those communities around the Mallee, those communities right around our country—those rural, regional and, perhaps most importantly, remote communities, who have done our nation proud.

As a nation, we responded to the global pandemic swiftly and decisively. We worked to bring projects forward. We worked, indeed, to up the ante on regional development. And we worked very, very hard to provide direct economic stimulus. We are ensuring that those communities that are ready to recover, ready to rebuild and ready to regenerate have the necessary tools at their disposal to invest in their growth and deliver our comeback. Every industry sector, business and farm in some way is contributing. Across the board, they all rely on regional Australia and certainly our farmers, three times a day, every day of every week. Whether it's the fresh produce on our supermarket shelves or the transport links between the states, our regions bolster our economy and our productivity, and we should be very, very proud and mindful of that fact.

Providing direct funding to local governments through the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program has been so important. In the member's electorate of Mallee we are providing more than $35.8 million in direct funding under this program. As I travel around the nation—albeit a little restricted—local councils and local mayors are very pleased. One of the many projects now underway across the dozen local councils the member for Mallee represents is the upgrade of Wargan Road in Mildura. This project will improve safety for local road users whilst also increasing productivity for local freight operators, increasing jobs, increasing efficiencies and making sure we've got the right connectivity in the right places right now.

This government's $110 billion infrastructure rollout over the next decade is making such a difference to local safety work such as Wargan Road. Regional Australia is diverse, and so is our investment. Many parts of Australia, after dealing with successive droughts, are now experiencing a bumper grain harvest. Local Ouyen farmer Dean 'Spot' Munro has said it's the best barley year ever for the district, and possibly the best wheat year as well. We need better roads and rail to ensure we get that delivery of grain, and we are doing just that.