May 14, 2013

Building stronger regions

This year’s Budget delivers new investments in infrastructure to create faster and safer transport links, as well as measures to protect and grow jobs and support families in regional communities.

Regional Australians will be big beneficiaries of the next phase of the $60 billion Nation Building Program being announced as part of this year’s Budget.

The next phase of the Program (2014-15 to 2018-19) provides significant additional funding towards a $4.1 billion 10 year package to upgrade and maintain the Bruce Highway – Queensland’s major north–south transport corridor which links the northern regional centres of the State with Brisbane.

In addition, the 2013-14 Budget provides:

  • $500.0 million for a 10 year capital works program along the Midland Highway – the critical north-south road link in Tasmania;
  • $307.8 million for a package of works along the section of the Great Northern Highway (Western Australia) between Muchea and Wubin;
  • $317.5 million for a package of works between Toowoomba and Miles on the Warrego Highway (Queensland); and
  • $257.5 million for construction of the next stage of the duplication of the Princes Highway West (Victoria) between Winchelsea and Colac.
    • $85 million for the Anangu Pitjanjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands (South Australia) to upgrade sections of the 210 kilometres of main access road between the Stuart Highway and Pukatja, and improve 21 kilometres of community roads.

These highway packages will improve safety through intersection upgrades; road widening; construction of additional overtaking lanes; realignment of sections; and regeneration of sections.

The 2013/14 Budget will also deliver:

  • $14.3 billion in additional funding over seven years from 2012-13 to roll out DisabilityCare Australia (the National Disability Insurance Scheme) across the country by 1 July 2019, ensuring that all Australians with significant and permanent disability get the care and support they need, when they need it;
  • $9.8 billion in additional funding over six years to deliver a fairer funding model for all schools, and the evidence based reforms in Labor’s National Plan for School Improvement;
  • $300 million through the Early Years Quality Fund to attract and retain qualified professionals in early childhood services, including in regional and remote areas of Australia;
  • $99.4 million over four years in new farm household support payments under reforms to the National Drought Program which move away from crisis assistance, to measures that help farmers better manage risk and prepare for future challenges, including drought;
  • $15.7 million in 2013-14 to support 20 Local Employment Coordinators, 10 Jobs and Skills Expos and a $4 million Flexible Funding Pool to support job seekers in 20 of Australia’s most vulnerable regions;
  • $3.5 million for the Labour Mobility and Relocation Assistance for Job Seekers program that will connect up to 600 job seekers impacted by structural change in the economy with employment opportunities in growth industries and regional areas that have labour and skills shortages; and
  • $10.0 million over the next two years to upgrade airstrips in remote Australia under the Regional Aviation Access Program. 

These new initiatives build on our existing commitments that are already strengthening Australia’s regions.

In 2013-14, the Government will continue the rollout of our Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF), building on the first two rounds which invested $350 million to leverage projects worth $1.2 billion. Already 75 projects are underway, ensuring people living in rural and regional Australia are getting the services and support they need.

The Government has provided national leadership on water reform through its Water for the Future initiative. The Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program, has committed more than $4.8 billion for infrastructure upgrades to secure the future of irrigated agriculture in the Murray Darling Basin and beyond, including supporting more efficient irrigation in Tasmania.

In addition, the Government will commence rolling out the $669 million Caring for our Country – Regional Delivery Component from this year.  This will allow regional Natural Resources Management organisations to deliver projects that protect our natural resources, encourage sustainable production of food and promote innovation in Australian agriculture.

The Government will also continue the rollout of the National Broadband Network. Regional Australia is being prioritised in the NBN rollout. Towns like Armidale, Coffs Harbour, Gosford, Townsville, Toowoomba, and Willunga are already connected to the NBN, with many more regional areas to follow.

Federal Labor’s national health reform agenda has also provided significant funding to improve access to health services for regional Australia. For example, under the $5.0 billion Heath and Hospitals Fund, 25 Regional Cancer Centres are being established, which when operational will provide world-class treatment for over 7,600 additional patients annually and over 127,000 additional chemotherapy treatments each year.

Australia’s regional communities are central to our national identity and economic prosperity. The Federal Labor Government will continue to work with them to maximise their economic potential.