Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the minister for local government, Senator McKenzie. How is the Liberal-National government's strong economy allowing you to deliver the essential services that regional Australia needs, particularly to those communities feeling the impacts of drought?
Thank you, Senator Williams, for your question. Christmas should be a time when families celebrate, but this will not be the case for our farmers and the people living in the regional communities affected by drought. The drought is tough, and it will take many years for some of these communities to recover. Our government stands shoulder to shoulder with them with real support. This real support is only possible because the Liberal-National government has done the hard work to put our economy in a strong position so that at times of stress we have the fiscal ability to provide these essential services.
Five years after coming into government, the Liberal-Nationals are ensuring that we have a budget that is coming back into surplus—rather than promise one, we deliver. We know that when our regions are strong, so, too, is our economy, and that's why we're backing our farmers and regional communities during this drought. Our government has provided $7 billion in support for our farmers and rural and regional communities in response to the drought. You can't do that, you can't deliver that level of support, without a strong economy.
There's an $81 million extension to the Drought Communities Program to drought affected councils to employ locals; $30 million for farmers, farm workers and farm suppliers facing financial hardship because of the drought; $72 million to enhance a long-term water security strategy for Australia. We're committing to invest $100 million each year into a $5 billion Future Drought Fund, because we know that this will occur again and we need to be ready when it does, after the rains come. Because of good economic management, the Liberal-National government has been able to invest billions of dollars to support farmers and their communities in their time of need.
Our Drought Communities Program supports the most drought affected regions in Australia and builds on more than $7 billion that has been committed to help drought affected farmers and their communities. So far, 57 projects have been approved for councils across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia, totalling $18 million. Boulia, in far Western Queensland, has installed three bores, and there have been upgrades to remote road infrastructure in the regions, employing locals as a result.
The Upper Hunter Shire Council is using the funding to employ a drought relief coordinator. In Gippsland, in my home state of Victoria, the local Wellington Shire is employing contractors to cart potable water to farming families—that's right, potable water; they've run out of drinking water. As Senator Williams will be well aware, seven businesses have closed in the Inverell CBD in the past five months due to financial hardship, and we're supporting his local council to stimulate his local economy as well.
I thank the minister, and I ask: in light of the government's action in this space, what impact would weak and reckless economic management have on jobs and opportunities available to communities throughout regional Australia?
We know that a strong economy relies on a strong regional Australia. We're backing hardworking Australians and farmers and we are investing in their local communities and businesses, because they help grow the economy and create jobs. We are unashamedly behind and backing regional communities. Today we've seen how those opposite want to treat regional communities and our industries. They nearly attempted to destroy a major agricultural industry, the $2 billion live export trade, and relegate it to extinction, along with the 10,000 Australians who are employed in it. It's very easy to sit behind the goat's cheese curtain, sipping your turmeric lattes, swilling your kombucha—very easy, because you've proved time and time again that you are no friend of farmers, you are no friend of agriculture and mining and you are no friend of regional Australia. Only a Liberal-National government backs a strong regional Australia.