Our Plan

Issue 16

Backing Regional Australia

Our farmers and country towns remain at the core of Australia’s economy and identity.

We are working to ensure regional Australia can prosper.

Our policies are boosting regional industries, growing regional economies and improving regional infrastructure and services.

MORE JOBS IN REGIONAL AUSTRALIA

Despite drought and a transition away from the mining boom, many regional economies are getting stronger.

In the first five years of the Liberal and Nationals Government, employment has grown by at least 200,000 outside capital cities.

BACKING FARMERS

Agriculture depends significantly on seasonal conditions and terms of trade.

The Government is focused on building resilience in our farming sector.

Despite ongoing drought, over the next few years the value of farm production and exports are both expected to rise by an average of 1.2% per year.

Around 70% of Australia’s agricultural production is exported.

Our farmers are already benefiting from landmark free trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea. We’re working to deliver more export opportunities, including new agreements with Peru and Indonesia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Our 2015 Agriculture White Paper put in place a long term plan to help farmers, through: better farm gate returns; better water, transport and communications infrastructure; better drought and risk management; smarter farming; and market access for agriculture exports.

This program is backed by $4 billion in funding, for:

  • Farm Business Concessional Loans.
  • Accelerated depreciation to help invest in fencing.
  • Water reticulation and fodder storage.
  • Stronger biosecurity and control of pest animals and weeds.
  • New investment in R&D.

The Government is providing dedicated professional support for farmers, with:

  • A new Agriculture Commissioner.
  • An ACCC unit to tackle unfair trading.
  • New Agriculture Counsellors to help farmers export to growth markets.
  • A new Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration Pilot project.

From 1 July 2018, the Regional Investment Corporation is delivering $4 billion of farm business concessional loans and water infrastructure loans.

We have introduced Country of Origin Labelling laws so Australian customers can see which products are Australian made and contain Australian ingredients.

To support Australian farmers with labour shortages, we are making the Working Holiday Maker Visas and the Seasonal Worker Program more flexible.

To help get more Australian job seekers into work we are also helping to fill farm shortages through the National Harvest Labour Information Service.

DROUGHT RELIEF

We can’t make it rain, but we can support farmers and keep towns alive.

The Government has committed over $5.7 billion for relief and recovery and to improve preparedness and resilience. Key measures include:

  • Supporting 10,000 households with $30 million to key charities.
  • Extending the Farm Household Allowance payments, increasing the asset threshold and providing an initial lump-sum payment for immediate relief.
  • Extending the Drought Communities Program from 60 to 81 local governments – providing each with $1 million for local projects.
  • More funding for local mental health services.
  • A new online Farm Hub as a single trusted listing of available support and resources.

To boost drought preparedness and resilience we are establishing:

  • The Future Drought Fund. This will provide around $100 million each year to help farmers and communities prepare for and respond to drought.
  • The On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme. This assists with the costs of piping, tanks, bores, troughs, pumps and fittings and desilting.

To remove red tape, we have shortened and streamlined the Farm Household Allowance application process.

To get fodder to farmers more quickly, we have also allowed longer and higher loads on roads. This will save up to 54,000 days per year applying and waiting for permits.

WATER SECURITY

The Liberal and Nationals Government is delivering priority water infrastructure projects.

We have provided a $500 million top up of the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund. Through the Fund and the $2 billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility we are fast tracking investment.

In Queensland, we have already announced funding for:

  • Stage 2 of the Haughton Pipeline extension to secure Townsville’s long-term water supply.
  • The Hells Gates Dam project.
  • The Hughenden Irrigation Scheme.

In addition to $13 billion for water reform in the Murray‑Darling Basin, the Government has also committed funding to the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative.

LANDCARE

This Government is investing around $1 billion over five years in the National Landcare Program.

This includes the Regional Land Partnerships, which invest in restoring wetlands and protecting threatened species and ecological communities.

It also invests in improving soil health on farms, targeting soil acidification and combating wind erosion and hillslope erosion.

REGIONAL ROADS AND RAIL

Our record $75 billion investment in infrastructure includes major road and rail upgrades to better connect regional communities.

An historic investment of $9.3 billion in Inland Rail will change the way freight is moved between Melbourne and Brisbane whilst promoting economic opportunities and jobs.

We have also committed to other important regional passenger and freight rail projects including $1.6 billion to upgrade passenger rail lines across Victoria; $390 million for the Beerburrum to Nambour Rail Upgrade in Queensland; $220 million for the Gawler Rail Upgrade in South Australia; and nearly $120 million to Tasmanian freight rail upgrades.

To build, repair and upgrade local roads, we are continuing our investments in the Roads to Recovery, Black Spot and Bridges Renewal programs.

We have also established a $3.5 billion Roads of Strategic Importance initiative which will upgrade key freight routes and help agriculture and mining exporters.

REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS

Labor connected just 51,000 premises to the NBN in six years. The Liberal and Nationals Government is now connecting over 23,000 premises per week.

The NBN rollout is 98% complete or under construction in regional Australia.

In six years, Labor did not invest a single dollar into improving mobile coverage.

By contrast, our Mobile Black Spots Program has delivered 867 new mobile phone towers and coverage to nearly 32,000 more homes and businesses.

REGIONAL HEALTH

Last year, there were 6.2 million more GP bulk billed services in rural and regional areas, compared to Labor’s last year in Government.

Through our Stronger Rural Health Strategy we are committing $550 million to improve the health of people living in rural, regional and remote Australia, and provide opportunities for Australian doctors, through better teaching, training, recruitment and retention. The strategy will deliver around 3,000 additional specialist GPs for rural Australia, over 3,000 additional nurses in rural general practice and hundreds of additional allied health professionals in rural Australia over 10 years.

A Murray–Darling Medical Schools Network is being established to provide end to end teaching in rural locations.

As part of our reforms to improve private health insurance, we are enabling insurers to cover travel and accommodation for treatment for people in regional and rural areas.

Our new telehealth initiative means people in remote areas can now get improved access to psychological services.

A new Medicare rebate will cover online videoconferencing mental health consultations with psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists.

We are encouraging medical students to study and work in regional Australia, through 26 new regional training hubs and three new University Departments of Rural Health.

REGIONAL EDUCATION

Last year, the Government provided more than $1.6 billion in base funding for students at regionally headquartered universities.

An additional $70 million regional loading each year helps universities maintain regional campuses.

To further help regional and rural education, the Government announced over $134 million in funding for:

  • 1,955 more scholarships for regional and remote students.
  • Support for more students at five regionally focused universities.
  • 16 Regional Study Hubs in 22 locations.
  • A National Regional, Rural and Remote Higher Education Strategy to boost participation in post-secondary education.

The Government is helping regional start-ups under the Entrepreneurs Program and Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships.

Information current as at November 2018