Our Plan

Issue 16

Backing Regional Australia

Our farmers and our country towns hold a special place in Australia’s history and psyche. Regional communities remain at the heart of Australia’s economy and identity.

The Coalition Government is working to ensure regional Australia can grow and prosper.

We are backing regional Australia with policies to boost regional industries, grow regional economies and improve infrastructure and services in regional communities.

MORE JOBS IN REGIONAL AUSTRALIA

While employment growth and unemployment rates vary across Australia, on the whole Australia’s regional economies are getting stronger. This is despite the transition away from the mining boom.

In the first four years of the Coalition Government, employment has grown by at least 165,000 outside capital cities. In the last year, at least 46,000 new jobs have been created in regional Australia.

Unemployment in regional Australia is falling. In fact, unemployment is now lower in regional Australia than in capital cities. (Over the last year unemployment has averaged 5.6% in regional Australia, compared to 5.7% in cities.)

The Coalition Government is working to deliver a stronger economy and to ensure the benefits of a stronger economy are shared across Australia.

BACKING FARMERS

Agriculture is now Australia’s fastest growing industry. Last year, it grew by 23% - fastest of all 19 industries measured in our GDP statistics. Last year rural exports increased by 19%.

The Coalition Government’s landmark export agreements with China, Japan and South Korea are already delivering benefits for agricultural industries and we are working to capitalise on these opportunities and to deliver even more free export agreements (including, most recently, with Peru).

We are also reversing the damage inflicted by Labor’s disastrous, knee-jerk live cattle ban and since 2013 we have successfully negotiated access to another seven livestock export markets—Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, Cambodia, Thailand, Lebanon and China. Last year Australia exported almost $1.4 billion worth of livestock.

Our 2015 Agriculture White Paper puts forward a long term, comprehensive plan to help agricultural industries grow and prosper, through: better farm gate returns; better water, transport and communications infrastructure; better drought and risk management; smarter farming; and market access for our agriculture exports.

This program is backed by $4 billion in funding, including: Farm Business Concessional Loans; accelerated depreciation to help farmers invest in fencing, water reticulation and fodder storage; stronger biosecurity and control of pest animals and weeds; and new investments in R&D.

The Coalition 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; and a new Farm Co-operatives and Collaboration Pilot project to help farmers control more of the food supply chain.

From 2018, the Regional Investment Corporation will deliver $4 billion of farm business concessional loans and water infrastructure loans.

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

DROUGHT RELIEF

To help those struggling through devastating drought conditions in recent years, the Coalition has provided more than $1 billion in assistance to farmers and communities.

We have paid over $198 million in Farm Household Allowance to over 7,600 farmers and their partners.

WATER SECURITY

To get priority water infrastructure, including dams, off the drawing board and under construction, the Coalition Government is delivering the $500 million National Water Infrastructure Development Fund and the $2 billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility.

LANDCARE

An additional $1 billion in funding for the National Landcare Program, including Smart Farming Grants to develop and extend new tools, methods and technology for farmers to continue to be at the forefront of land management.

REGIONAL ROADS AND RAIL

The Coalition Government’s record $75 billion investment in infrastructure includes major upgrades to the Pacific, Bruce and Princes Highways and other vital roads that link regional communities.

Our historic investment in Inland Rail will link the Port of Brisbane to the Port of Melbourne, transforming freight movements through Victoria, New South Wales and South East Queensland, while promoting economic opportunities and jobs in these regions.

To build, repair and upgrade local roads, we’re investing $4.4 billion in the Roads to Recovery Program, while the Black Spot Program ($684 million for seven years to 2020–21) is delivering safety improvements.

Local bridges are being fixed with $420 million for the Bridges Renewal Program.

BACKING REGIONAL COMMUNITIES

The Coalition Government is helping ten regions undergoing significant economic transition to diversify their economies, through the $220 million Regional Jobs and Investment Package.

Through our new $481 million Building Better Regions Fund, we are supporting transformative community projects that renew regional centres, boost job-creating industries like tourism and improve local infrastructure.

We are actively examining opportunities to decentralise public service agencies outside of Canberra and central Sydney and Melbourne.

And we are helping regional start-ups under the Entrepreneurs’ Program and Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships.

REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS

While Labor connected just 51,000 premises to the NBN in six years, the Coalition Government is now connecting around 25,000 premises per week.

The NBN is now available to half of all Australian premises – around 70% of which are in regional and non-metropolitan areas.

Despite being in Government for six years, Labor did not invest a single dollar into improving mobile coverage.

By contrast, through Rounds 1 and 2 of our Mobile Black Spots Program, the Coalition Government is delivering: 765 new mobile phone towers; coverage to nearly 32,000 more homes and businesses; handheld coverage to 86,000 square kilometres of landmass; and coverage to 7,600 kilometres of major transport routes.

REGIONAL HEALTH

Last year (2016-17), there were 6.2 million more GP bulk billed services in rural and regional areas, compared to Labor’s last year in Government.

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 that need to travel to get medical treatment.

Our new telehealth initiative means people in rural and remote regions 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.

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

Information current as at March 2018