Regional Australia gets $135m budget boost

Matt Coughlan
(Australian Associated Press)


Bushfire and coronavirus-ravaged parts of regional Australia will share in $100 million of Commonwealth cash over the next two years.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack on Wednesday announced a new regional recovery fund to be included in next week’s budget.

“The regions will lead the way out from the COVID downturn,” Mr McCormack told the Regional Australia Institute on Wednesday.

The program will be targeted at regions suffering after drought, bushfires and the pandemic, as well as areas primed for economic diversification.

In NSW, the Snowy Mountains, Hunter-Newcastle and Parkes regions will be eligible.

Victoria’s Gippsland region is included, along with Cairns, Gladstone, Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday and the tropical north in Queensland.

All of Tasmania, South Australia’s Kangaroo Island and Western Australia’s South West are also covered.

Mr McCormack said data was behind the locations.

“They have been selected because they are regions in which the economies have experienced the brunt of natural events such as bushfires, or COVID-19,” he said.

“Or because they create an opportunity to work closely with other levels of government to make sure those regions are well placed to contribute to national resilience and growth.”

There will also be an extra $30 million for telecommunications projects outside of national broadband network fixed-line areas.

That will make the Regional Connectivity Program worth $83 million.

A further $5.7 million will be spent on developing local leaders in the regions, including councillors, volunteers, members of community organisations and industries.

Mr McCormack will address federal parliament next Thursday delivering the first annual ministerial statement on rural and regional budget outcomes.

The government is talking up $385 million in measures announced so far including $200 million for the Building Better Regions Fund and $50 million for tourism.

But Labor leader Anthony Albanese said investing more in regional roads and railways would create jobs to stimulate sluggish local economies.

“State governments will invest billions of dollars in new public transport projects over the next two decades, requiring hundreds of new rail carriages,” he said in a pre-budget speech.

“We should build them here. We have the facilities in Maryborough, Ballarat, Bendigo, Newcastle and Perth. We also have the skills.

“What we need is a government prepared to back in Australian-made trains and Australian-based jobs.”

Mr Albanese said the Rudd government’s initial design of the national broadband network would have given regional businesses greater access to markets.


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