Wednesday, 21 June 2017
Questions without Notice
Rural and Regional Services
My question is to the nation's best ever Minister for Regional Development, Senator Nash. Can the minister update the Senate on the coalition government's record investments across regional Australia since the 2016 election and how it is delivering on all of our commitments to ensure that rural, regional and remote communities continue to grow and prosper into the future?
I thank Senator Back for his question and, even more importantly, for his service to the Australian people. We will miss him very, very much. As Senator Back knows, it is in the coalition's DNA to look after rural and regional Australia. There is no doubt about that. We have wasted no time in implementing our regional agenda. We have seen the Regional Australia Ministerial Taskforce—something probably never even thought of by those opposite—chaired by the Prime Minister, pulling together all of our cabinet ministers to focus on regional Australia and to deliver even more for regional Australia.
We announced our Regions 2030: Unlocking Opportunity strategy. We on this side of the chamber in the coalition recognise the enormous opportunity out there in the regions that are ignored by the Labor Party. We have seen over 450 separate measures for regional Australia across all our portfolios through that regional task force, through the Regions 2030 process, through the budget process. And the coalition is very proud of that. We are very proud of what we are delivering. We are seeing $8.4 billion to deliver the Inland Rail, to actually build it. It has taken the coalition government to do that.
We never saw it under the Labor government. We are seeing it under the coalition government: $220 million for the regional jobs and investment packages going out to 10 regions, for the first time delivered and driven by local people in their local communities. Unlike those opposite, we recognise that the best solutions to the challenges and the best ideas going forward come from those communities themselves. There is almost half a billion dollars in this year's budget for regional projects, an extra $200 million for the Building Better Regions Fund and, for the first time, a large regional projects fund, which is going to deliver even more for the regions.
All of our policies are delivering even better outcomes for people out in the regions, in communications in particular. We have worked even harder over the last year to fix the NBN mess left to us by the previous, Labor, government. We have doubled the capacity of the satellite service by bringing the second Sky Muster satellite into use. I note that those opposite were going to leave the second satellite just bobbing around up there as backup if they might need it. We actually decided to utilise it so we could deliver a better service to the Australian people through the NBN. We have expanded the fixed wireless footprint. Sky Muster has stabilised with 90 per cent fewer outages than last year. That fixed wireless rollout will be completed by the end of 2018. It is the coalition that is continuing to deliver for the regions, and it is those on this side that are going to provide a brighter and stronger future for regional Australia.
Indeed I am. The first we saw from the opposition leader, Mr Shorten, in his budget-in-reply speech. How many times do you think he said the word 'bush'? Zero in that speech. How many times do you think he might have said the word 'country' in his budget-in-reply speech? Zero. And how many times do you think the Leader of the Opposition said to the word 'regional' in his budget-in-reply speech, colleagues? Zero. And then we look at his speech yesterday with a local government assembly: 'But I tell you something else that drives this regional inequality. I am deeply dissatisfied and unhappy that in my home area of the western suburbs of Melbourne we have worse health outcomes than other parts of Melbourne.' They do not even know where regional Australia is, so it is no surprise that they cannot deliver for the bush!