Thursday, 14 May 2020
Questions without Notice
COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Senator Cash. Can the minister inform the Senate how the Liberal-National government is supporting regional communities and industries during the coronavirus pandemic through the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund?
I thank Senator McKenzie for her question and acknowledge her passion for, in particular, rural and regional Australia. Senator McKenzie, as you well know, regional Australians are incredibly resilient. Whether it's the drought, whether it's the bushfires, whether it's the floods which actually followed the bushfires, and obviously now with the impact of COVID-19, regional Australians come through all of these challenges. Why? Because of their resilience and because of their fighting spirit.
The Liberal-National government is proud to support rural and regional Australia. It's in our DNA, as Senator McKenzie well knows. We have recently established the $1 billion COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund to support regions, communities and industry sectors that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Through the fund, the Commonwealth is providing timely support when and where it is most critically needed. Over $600 million has already been committed, supporting industries including aviation, agriculture, fisheries, tourism and the arts.
These measures include: support for regional aviation under our $100 million Regional Airlines Funding Assistance Program and the $198 million Regional Airline Network Support Program; relief for federally managed fisheries through the waiving of nearly $10 million in levies; air freight support for the agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries to help businesses during this time export produce into key overseas markets when return flights bring back vital medical supplies, medicines and equipment; and funding for vulnerable areas of the arts sector, including help for regional artists and organisations. The Liberal-National government is proud to support regional and rural Australia.
Well, that gives us much to be proud of, Senator Cash. Thank you. How will this package, along with the Liberal-National government's $100 billion 10-year Infrastructure Investment Pipeline support job creation and economic activity that will be essential to Australia's economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis?
The Liberal-National government is of course committed to supporting jobs and the economy at this critical time, including jobs in the construction and building supply chain. It is a well-known fact that infrastructure is a key enabler of the economy. It supports economic activity, it sustains employment and it drives long-term productivity. It will be essential to our economic recovery once the health crisis passes.
Road and rail projects currently underway are expected to support up to 85,000 direct and indirect jobs over the lifetime of the projects. We're also working, as you know, with state and territory and local governments to get additional projects underway, and works are commencing in some corridors. Since coming to government, more than 300 major projects have been completed, and those projects created jobs.
Yes, I am. Our infrastructure investment is vital to Australia's immediate and long-term economic prosperity. There are around 160 projects currently underway across our great nation that are improving safety, improving productivity and, of course, creating jobs. These include high-profile examples like the Western Sydney International Airport, Senator Payne, and the 1,700 kilometres of Inland Rail projects. There are of course more. The government has brought forward and invested new funding of more than half a billion dollars of road projects that will drive jobs, strengthen the economy and get people home sooner and safer, including in regional Victoria. $370 million of the new package was planned to be spent in just the next 18 months to get these projects done. Senator McKenzie, we're working harder to ensure that, even with the impacts of COVID-19, this— (Time expired)