House debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2023


Stronger Communities Program

7:40 pm

Photo of Gavin PearceGavin Pearce (Braddon, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, Aged Care and Indigenous Health Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Everyone across the nation is being hit hard by Labor's cost-of-living crisis. But it is in regional and remote communities where the pain is being felt most, whether it's groceries, petrol, electricity, housing, mortgage or insurance—the list goes on. Every single day across the north-west, the West Coast and King Island, I'm hearing now that life is much tougher under this Albanese government than even during the height of the pandemic. It's shameful and a reflection of Labor's inability to manage our economy on the ground, where it matters. This is a government who's gloating about a ballooning budget surplus while families and businesses are going under. But we shouldn't be surprised. This is a well-trodden Labor path. They talk themselves up publicly, while behind the scenes continue to axe vital funding streams crucial to regional and remote communities such as mine, in the electorate of Braddon.

This is the case with the axing of the Stronger Communities Program. This was a great program set up by the former Liberal-National government to ensure that every single electorate, whether in inner-city Sydney or in the most remote places of Australia, like King Island in the middle of Bass Strait, receive an equal share of funding to support our vital community organisations. The Stronger Communities Program was fair, equitable, practical, functional, and it achieved great outcomes for local communities right across the north-west, the West Coast and King Island in the great state of Tassie. It's exactly how it should be, so it beggars belief that, at the time when we are all dealing with enormous cost-of-living pressure, this federal government believes it's the right time to ask volunteers, families and businesses to put their hands even deeper into their own pockets in order to keep their local community club afloat.

Since I was elected in 2019, 64 community groups in my electorate have benefited from the Stronger Communities Program. Some include the Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden in Burnie, City Mission in Ulverstone, the Smithton Lions Club, the Devonport Men's Shed, the King Island community radio station, Latrobe Footy Club, Live Well Tasmania in Wynyard, and the Queenstown Amateur Swimming Club. That's just a small selection of those who benefited from that great program. Each of these eight rounds guaranteed that $150,000 in total would be invested across the north-west, the West Coast, and King Island in the electorate of Braddon. That's $1.2 million invested directly into our local community organisations, where it matters, through this program alone. Not only that, but the downstream benefits of supporting small businesses by injecting vital investment into local communities has been crucial, and it's been a force multiplier when it comes to benefits.

Sometimes that investing is lifesaving. Just the other day, I received an email from a bloke called Arron Brooke from the Mersey SES. Now that Labor has axed this program, Arron and his team are amongst the final worthy recipients of funding through round 8 of the Stronger Communities Program. Arron writes:

Hi Gavin,

We were very fortunate to receive one of your recent grants. We were able to purchase 4 trauma first aid kits for our SES vehicles. We have now received these kits. We would like to express our appreciation—

and genuine thanks—

for these and they will be put to great use keeping our members and members of the public safe—

when needed.

Regrettably, one of Labor's first acts when elected to government was to scrap the Stronger Communities Program. At a time when many can't afford the petrol to drive to medical appointments, Labor thinks that they should be making communities in the bush hurt more by cutting important funding streams such as this. Funding is crucial to the ongoing social and economic fabric of our great local communities. Prime Minister Albanese and the Labor government should hang their heads in shame. On behalf of the electorate of Braddon, I call on them and plead that they should reinstate this important program immediately.