Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

The Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications Portfolio was created in February 2020, combining the responsibilities of the previous portfolios of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities and Communications and the Arts.

The Portfolio contributes to the wellbeing of all Australians through the design and implementation of the Australian Government’s regional development, infrastructure, transport, communications, digital economy and arts and culture policies and programs.

The scope of the Portfolio’s work touches the lives of every Australian. It underpins the economic and social activity of our community nation-wide, from the transport and communications networks that Australians use every day, to our cultural expressions. It supports services and entities delivering crucial national economic infrastructure, such as national road, rail, aviation and shipping infrastructure, water infrastructure, communication systems and services such as Australia Post and NBN Co. The Portfolio also includes key national cultural institutions such as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the National Library of Australia, and the Australia Council for the Arts. In particular, the Portfolio is responsible for national policy initiatives on regional development, providing programs and initiatives that assist regional communities around the country, also including the territories of Norfolk Island and Christmas and Cocos Islands.

A significant focus for the Portfolio over the past year has been responding to several major domestic and international challenges. Natural disasters such as bushfires and floods, as well as drought and COVID-19 have demanded specially-tailored additional measures in order to keep our transport and communication systems operating and to support the most affected communities – particularly regional communities – in their recovery.

The Portfolio will continue to undertake its large range of Portfolio responsibilities throughout the coming year. Detailed in the New Initiatives below are significant investments in the 2020-21 Budget, which boost the Portfolio’s contribution to key outcomes for regional Australia to provide stimulus and additional assistance for regional growth. These include new major investments in transport infrastructure which bring the Government’s investment in transport infrastructure to a record $110 billion over 10 years, $2 billion investment in projects under the National Road Safety Strategy and further investment to extend fibre infrastructure and improve regional connectivity through NBN Co.

The Portfolio has led the establishment of several support packages for regional communities such as the $1 billion COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund. This Fund is delivering targeted assistance to regions, communities and industry sectors that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including support for aviation, fisheries, tourism, events and the arts. Of particular importance for regional communities are the Fund initiatives supporting the aviation and airfreight sector. These have been vital to maintain connection for regional communities, ensuring movement of regional exports to domestic and international markets through the pandemic.

The Government has provided $37.1 million for a new Strengthening Telecommunications Against Natural Disasters package and a further $138.9 million additional Roads to Recovery funding for the Local Government Areas affected by drought.

The Portfolio also delivers the Australian Government’s regional development programs. The Government is providing an additional $200 million for round five of the Building Better Regions Fund, including $100 million for tourism-related infrastructure projects, and a further $22.7 million for another round of the Stronger Communities Programme. These programs provide funding for a range of locally-driven projects that aim to strengthen our regions, their economies and the vibrant communities which characterise them. Additionally, targeted funding for drought-affected communities is being provided through the Drought Communities Programme Extension and the Drought Community Support Initiative.

The Government is also committing $100 million over two years to fund Regional Recovery Partnerships to coordinate investments with other levels of government. The Partnerships will support recovery and growth in 10 regions: the Snowy Mountains, Hunter and Newcastle and Parkes Regions in New South Wales, Cairns and Tropical North Queensland, Gladstone and Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday Regions in Queensland, the Gippsland Region in Victoria, Kangaroo Island in South Australia, the South West Region of Western Australia and all of Tasmania.

The Portfolio also leads the Government’s decentralisation agenda, which is one of the initiatives supporting the Government’s plan for Australia’s future population and regional development more broadly. As part of this plan, the Department’s Regional Programs Branch has been relocated to Orange, NSW.

As at 30 June 2020, the Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications Portfolio employed 3,205 staff under the Public Service Act 1999. Of this total 3,051 staff were employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 102 staff were in other capital cities and 52 staff were in regional areas. The Portfolio’s regional footprint includes office locations such as Wollongong, Newcastle, Orange, Toowoomba, Dubbo, Wodonga, Port Augusta and Junee.

Several Portfolio agencies employ staff under their own legislation. Some Portfolio Agencies, such as Air Services Australia, have a considerable presence around Australia supporting aviation movements outside the capital cities.

The main contributor to the Portfolio’s regional footprint is Australia Post, which has a network of over 2,500 regional outlets. NBN Co also has a significant presence in regional areas with the ongoing rollout of the NBN access network.

New initiatives

COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund

The Australian Government has established a $1 billion COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund (the Fund) commencing March 2020, to deliver targeted assistance to regions, communities and industry sectors that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Through the Fund, the Government has supported industries including aviation, fisheries, tourism, events and the arts.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications administers the Fund. The Department or agency with the relevant sector responsibilities administers each agreed initiative under the Fund.

The Fund includes the following initiatives administered by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications:

  • Regional Airlines Funding Assistance ($100 million)
  • Regional Airline Network Support Program ($198 million)
  • Supporting Indigenous Visual Arts Centres ($7 million)
  • Crisis Relief for Regional Arts, and Support Act ($10 million)
  • Crisis Relief to Artists, Crew and Music Workers ($10 million)
  • Maritime Freight Underwriting for the Indian Ocean Territories ($1.4 million)
  • Regional Recovery Partnerships ($83.4 million)

It further includes the following initiatives administered by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment:

  • Commonwealth National Parks—Support for Tourism— Licence, Permit and Fee Waivers and reimbursements ($12 million)
  • Financial Counselling to Support Small Regional Businesses ($4.8 million)
  • Seafood sector COVID-19 support—“Eat Seafood Australia” Campaign ($4 million)
  • Supporting Agricultural Shows Package and Supporting Agricultural Field Days ($39 million)
  • Securing Forestry Resources for Economic Recovery ($10 million)
  • Temporary Oil Recycling Sector Support ($7.8 million)
  • Sustaining Tourism at Australia’s Iconic World and National Heritage Sites ($33.5 million).

Additionally, the Fund includes:

  • The Temporary waiver of Environmental Management Change for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park ($8.1 million) initiative, the Renewing Reef HQ Aquarium ($7.6 million) initiative, the Reef Builder – The Coastal Communities Recovery Project ($20 million) and the Great Barrier Reef Tourism Industry Activation ($3.2 million) initiative, which are administered by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
  • The Levy Relief for Commonwealth Fisheries ($10.3 million), administered by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority.
  • Support for essential agriculture, fisheries and forestry and tourism industries: International Freight Assistance Mechanism (an initial $110 million); Additional Funding for the Export Market Development Grants Scheme ($49.8 million); Supporting Australia's Exhibiting Zoos and Aquariums ($94.6 million); Business Events Grants Program ($50 million); and the the Recovery for Regional Tourism ($50 million) – which are administered by Austrade within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Further information on individual COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund initiatives which are administered by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications is provided below.

Domestic Aviation Network Support Program

Following the sudden and drastic capacity cuts by airlines in the initial response to COVID-19, the Australian Government moved quickly to re-establish minimum levels of aviation connectivity. This connectivity has allowed repatriated Australians to get to their homes and ensured critical workers, health supplies and freight continue to move to support the health pandemic needs across the country.

The Australian Government committed up to $165 million on 16 April 2020 towards the first stage of the Domestic Aviation Network Support (DANS) Program. This supported networks servicing the most critical metropolitan and regional routes in Australia.

As the COVID-19 crisis unfolded and travel restrictions continued to impact on passenger demand and ability to travel, the Government announced extensions of the DANS program from1 July to 30 September 2020, and this Budget extends the support again from 1 October 2020 to 31 January 2021. The program was also refocused to the top 50 routes, by passenger capacity flown in the 2018-19 year.  

Through the DANS Program, the Government is ensuring that a minimum level of flights can continue, while also supporting flexibility and responsiveness to ensure the airline networks can respond to meet community needs in what continues to be an uncertain environment. In this way, the Government is ensuring that Australian aviation networks are able to continue to operate through the current COVID-19 situation, and that airlines are in a position to respond quickly to domestic travel demand as the situation changes and improves. 

Regional Airline Network Support Program

Due to travel restrictions and border closures put in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, very few domestic aviation services in regional Australia remained commercially viable. Air transport is critical for many regional communities.

The Australian Government has therefore committed up to $198 million over two years from 2019-20, through the Regional Airline Network Support (RANS) Program. RANS is facilitating the continued operation of a minimum network of passenger flights to regional and remote communities across Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the support of the Australian Government, many regional locations would not have air connectivity. More than 110 regional or remote locations across all states and territories are receiving flights under the Program.

RANS flights are carrying essential medical and service workers to remote areas, and enabling people living in regional locations to travel to major cities to access medical treatment and other services. A number of the flights service remote Indigenous communities, including island communities, which are particularly reliant on access to services via air.

RANS flights are also enabling essential workers to continue to travel to and from their work locations, supporting key industries such as mining and agriculture. Passenger flights are also a key means of carrying vital freight, including Australia Post parcels, medical supplies, and machinery parts, as well as supporting regional exporters to get goods to market. By facilitating the continued operation of regional airlines, the RANS Program is also supporting a range of suppliers, including ground handling suppliers, refuelling agents, travel agencies, and regional airports.

On 28 September 2020, the Government announced the extension of the program through to 28 March 2021.

Regional Airlines Funding Assistance Program

The Australian Government is providing $100 million in funding for the Regional Airlines Funding Assistance Program to give direct cash flow assistance to smaller regional air operators to help them remain financially viable, and continue to provide essential air connectivity to regional Australia, through the unprecedented downturn in aviation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Program provides last resort grant funding to domestic commercial airlines operating regular public transport services to regional and remote communities, and to a range of other essential air operators including aeromedical providers, subject to eligibility and financial need.

The Program will run to 31 December 2020 or until funding is expended, whichever occurs first.

Regional Airports Screening Infrastructure Program

The Government is providing $66 million in 2020-21, for the Regional Airports Screening Infrastructure (RASI) Program, to support enhanced regional security screening costs. For eligible regional airports across Australia, this funding will contribute towards the minimum necessary capital and initial operating costs of complying with enhanced security screening requirements enacted by the Department of Home Affairs through transport security regulations.

Regional airports eligible for the RASI Program are located all across Australia. Regional communities will benefit from this measure by avoiding security screening costs being passed on by airports to airlines, and ultimately to passengers. This initiative is expected to benefit a wide range of sectors dependent on air transport and regional airports across Australia.

Infrastructure Investment – Major Projects

The Australian Government is investing a record $110 billion over 10 years through the rolling infrastructure plan to meet our national freight challenge, get Australians home sooner and safer, and support regional jobs and investment at the time it is needed most. The Government’s focus on delivering local priorities as part of the economic road to recovery will create regional jobs and draw on regional business to stimulate local economies. Improved transport connectivity for communities provides opportunities for agriculture producers in regional areas by better linking industries to domestic and international markets.

The Government’s investment will support Australia’s recovery. Australian Government funded projects under construction are expected to support around 100,000 direct and indirect jobs across Australia over the life of the projects. This investment will help get regional Australia back in business following the pandemic, and provide long lasting benefits for communities through safer roads and better facilities. Through the 2020-21 Budget, the Australian Government has committed to more than 40 new land transport infrastructure projects that support regional Australia.

This investment will support stronger regional economies, local jobs and local businesses, and includes:

  • $560 million for the New England Highway – Singleton Bypass and an additional $43 million for the Bolivia Hill Upgrade to improve traffic flow, travel times, amenity and safety on the New England Highway.
  • $320 million for Shepparton Rail Line Upgrade – Stage 3, and $208 million for Warrnambool Rail Line Upgrade – Stage 2, to improve the ride quality, reliability and resilience of passenger and freight rail services in Victoria.
  • $120 million for the Carpentaria Highway Upgrade in the Northern Territory to provide better freight links, and a more efficient and reliable means for the community to access key essential services.
  • $100 million to seal priority sections of the Strzelecki Track in South Australia to improve accessibility and connectivity of road networks.
  • $76 million for Riverway Drive Stage 2 (Allambie Lane to Dunlop Street) in Townsville, Queensland to deliver safety upgrades, duplication and three signalised intersections.
  • $40 million for the Tasmanian Roads Package – Bass Highway targeted upgrades between Deloraine and Devonport to improve a key link for freight, tourism and people movement.
  • $16 million for the Broome-Cape Leveque Road: Upgrading and Community Access Roads in Western Australia to improve connectivity between people with jobs and services, and goods with markets.

The Australian Government has also committed additional funding to projects across regional Australia, including:

  • $1.46 billion (including an additional $490.6 million through the 2020-21 Budget) for the Coffs Harbour Bypass in New South Wales to deliver four lanes of divided highway to a motorway standard, including tunnels and bypassing the Coffs Harbour urban area, improving road safety for all road users.
  • $452 million (including an additional $52 million through the 2020-21 Budget) for the Midland Highway Upgrade in Tasmania to deliver safety works such as flexible barriers and realigning tight curves.
  • $64.7 million (including an additional $38 million through the 2020-21 Budget) for the Bruce Highway - Burdekin Bridge Upgrade in Queensland, including major work on the steel girders, removal of red-lead paint, rust elimination, painting and deck resurfacing.

Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government is providing $1.5 billion to fund local priority projects through the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program. This includes an additional $1 billion through the 2020-21 Budget.

This investment will support an estimated 3,000 direct and indirect jobs over the life of the projects. The Government’s investment will drive shovel-ready local priorities, supporting local jobs and local business. As at 2 October 2020, in total more than $340 million has been allocated to local councils and more than $155 million has already been provided under the Program to quickly stimulate regional economies and support community infrastructure projects such as new or upgraded bicycle and walking paths, community halls, picnic shelters and barbeque facilities at parks and off-road car parks such as those near sporting grounds.

Bruce Highway Upgrade Strategy

The Australian Government has committed $20 million in 2020-21 for the Bruce Highway Upgrade Strategy. This strategy will deliver a plan for future upgrades along the Bruce Highway in Queensland, including consideration of duplication of priority sections of the highway between Curra and Cairns. This work will be undertaken in partnership with the Queensland Government and industry.

The Australian Government has an existing commitment of $10 billion over fifteen years towards the Bruce Highway Upgrade Program, with almost all of the funding allocated to projects. The program has improved safety, flood resilience and capacity along the length of the highway between Brisbane and Cairns.

Roads of Strategic Importance Initiative

The Australian Government has committed more than $4.6 billion from 2018-19 upgrade key freight routes through the Roads of Strategic Importance (ROSI) initiative. The ROSI initiative will ensure that our key freight roads efficiently connect agricultural and mining regions to ports, airports and other transport hubs. Most importantly, the rolling nature of the investment over 10 years also ensures the ROSI initiative delivers substantial social and economic benefits, including ongoing opportunities for greater regional employment and business growth.

Through the 2020-21 Budget, the Australian Government has committed additional funding to support projects under the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative including the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network in Western Australia ($150 million including an additional $80 million through the 2020-21 Budget), and upgrades to the Midway Point Causeway (including McGees Bridge) and Sorell Causeway on the Hobart to Sorell Corridor in Tasmania ($150 million).

The Australian Government is also allocating funding to projects on previously identified priority corridors, including $41.6 million for the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway – Emu Rocks on the Port Augusta to Perth Corridor in Western Australia, and $38 million for Cape York Community Access Roads on the Cooktown to Weipa Corridor in Queensland.

Shovel Ready Projects and Targeted Road Safety Works

In June 2020 the Australian Government announced $1.5 billion over three years from 2020-21 for priority regional and urban transport infrastructure to support local jobs and economic recovery. Funding for regional Australia under this initiative totals more than $970 million. This includes shovel ready projects such as:

  • $178.2 million in additional funding for Regional Rail Revival Package projects in Victoria
  • $126.4 million for a number of smaller scale projects under the Regional Economic Enabling Fund in Queensland
  • $68 million for Stage 1 and 2 of the Bussell Highway duplication in Western Australia
  • $41.6 million for a Regional Road Network Package in South Australia
  • $8 million for State Road Network Enhancements in Tasmania
  • $7.6 million for strengthening and widening the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory.

This investment also includes $500 million to deliver smaller but critical projects to improve road safety and bolster the resilience of our road networks. This includes:

  • $140 million towards a Safer Roads Program in New South Wales
  • $80 million Regional State Road Safety Improvement Program in Western Australia
  • $30 million to improvements on the Kennedy Highway in Queensland between Mareeba-Atherton
  • $16 million to upgrade high-speed, high-risk regional intersections in Victoria
  • $8 million to install safety barriers at high crash sites in South Australia
  • $5 million to upgrade the Huon Highway and Sandfly Road Junction in Tasmania
  • $3.9 million for safety improvements on the Barkly Highway in the Northern Territory.

Roads to Recovery Program

The Roads to Recovery Program supports the construction and maintenance of local roads to facilitate greater access for Australians and improve safety, economic and social outcomes. The Australian Government has committed a total of $6.2 billion to the Program from 2013-14 to 2023‑24. Around 50 per cent of this funding goes to rural and regional local councils.

On 6 November 2019, the Government announced a further $138.9 million additional Roads to Recovery funding over the 2020 calendar year for the 128 Local Government Areas eligible for the Drought Communities Programme Extension. The 2020-21 Budget commits a further $400 million additional Roads to Recovery funding in 2029-30 to maintain annual funding at existing levels on an ongoing basis.

Councils have a set program allocation and choose the projects on which they will spend their Roads to Recovery funding, based on local priorities.

Black Spot Program

The Australian Government is providing $1.1 billion to the Black Spot Program over 10 years from 2013-14, to fund safety works in places where there have been serious crashes or where serious crashes are likely to occur. In 2019-20, the Government approved 273 projects across Australia that will reduce crashes and save lives on Australian roads through works including the construction of roundabouts and crash barriers, and upgraded street lighting. Over 57 per cent of Black Spot funding has been provided to rural and regional areas.

The 2020-21 Budget commits a further $60 million additional Black Spot Program funding in 2029-30 to maintain annual funding at existing levels on an ongoing basis

More than 60 per cent of road deaths and a significant proportion of serious injuries occur outside of metropolitan areas. In line with national road safety policy objectives, approximately 50 per cent of Black Spot Program funds in each state (other than Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory) have been set aside for projects in non-metropolitan areas. As at September 2020, more than 2,700 projects have been funded since 2013-14. Each state and territory receives a share of the total funding, based on crash data, population and vehicle kilometres travelled.

Road Safety Program

The Australian Government will invest $2 billion over 18 months commencing no later than January 2021 to create jobs and support the Government’s new National Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030. The initiative will provide around 9,000 widely distributed local jobs and support the Government’s objectives on road safety through safety upgrades across the road network.

This initiative will positively benefit the economy and is expected to materially reduce road casualty rates across predominantly regional communities, which disproportionately bear the brunt of fatal road injuries. Regional communities suffer 9.6 deaths per 100,000 compared to metropolitan areas who suffer 2.2 deaths per 100,000 persons.

Road safety treatments will include: shoulder sealing and installation of audio tactile line markings, to support the safe return of vehicles from the shoulder into the travel lane; physical barriers to prevent run off road crashes; and, median treatments to prevent head-on vehicle collisions. The application of these road safety treatments will raise road safety standards across high risk roads. Approximately 3,000 kilometres of road will be upgraded nationwide.

A National Road Safety Data Hub (the Hub) will also be established costing $5.5 million over four years, commencing in December 2020. The Hub will bring together road safety data to inform governments’ investments in road infrastructure and measure its effectiveness, and provide a robust evidence base to facilitate best practice road safety policy outcomes. Having access to data that is accurate, robust and available in a timely manner allows policies to be targeted and agile providing for faster interventions that will make a difference and save lives sooner and help identify and improve high safety risk roads in regional areas.

Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program

The Australian Government is investing a total of $538 million over 10 years from 2013-14 to the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, which will provide funding to infrastructure projects that improve productivity and safety outcomes of heavy vehicle operations across Australia. Nearly 94 per cent of funding under the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program has gone to projects located in rural and regional areas.

The 2020-21 Budget commits a further $40 million additional Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program funding in 2029-30 to maintain annual funding at existing levels on an ongoing basis.

Projects funded under the Program include rest stops and parking bays, upgrading the capacity of roads, and technology trials aimed at improving heavy vehicle productivity.

During 2020, over 145 new projects were approved for funding under the Program. Around 90 per cent of these new projects are located in rural and regional areas.

Bridges Renewal Program

The Australian Government is investing a total of $676 million over eight years from 2015-16 to the Bridges Renewal Program, to provide funding for upgrades to bridges that enhance access for local communities and facilitate vehicle access to enhance the local economy. More than 80 per cent of the projects funded since 2015-16 through the first three rounds of the program have already been completed, with a further 90 underway. Around 85 per cent of funding under the Program has gone to projects located in rural and regional areas.

The 2020-21 Budget commits a further $60 million additional Bridges Renewal Program funding in 2029-30 to maintain annual funding at existing levels on an ongoing basis.

During 2020, over 200 new projects were approved for funding under the Program. Over 90 per cent of these new projects are located in rural and regional areas.

Increasing job and business opportunities for Indigenous Australians in Regional Australia

Indigenous Australians living in regional Australia will benefit from the Australian Government’s Infrastructure Investment Program for land transport. On 1 July 2019, the Australian Government successfully negotiated a new National Partnership Agreement on Land Transport Infrastructure Projects with all states and territories. The National Partnership Agreement includes the Indigenous Employment and Supplier-use Infrastructure Framework (the Framework) which aims to increase job and business opportunities for Indigenous Australians in the delivery of Australian Government funded land transport projects.

New road and rail projects receiving $7.5 million or more in Australian Government funding, and projects with a strong potential to support Indigenous participation including those funded under the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative in Northern Australia, are required to have Indigenous participation targets. The Framework and the National Partnership Agreement is a five-year agreement, with state and territory governments responsible for project delivery.

Supporting National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities

The Australian Government is committed to maximising the benefits of better connecting the national freight rail network with regional Australia. Strategic business cases will continue to be developed, identifying opportunities to support more productive rail-based supply chains at major regional centres. This will build capacity on key country rail lines enabling heavier, faster and longer country freight rail services.

The following new rail initiatives will also help contribute towards the Government’s wider commitment to the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy and Action Plan to address the need for safer and better freight performance:

Northern New South Wales Inland Port – Narrabri

The Australian Government will contribute $7.8 million in 2020-21, to support the delivery of the Northern New South Wales Inland Port project, which is located in Narrabri. This project will improve regional connectivity and will complement the Inland Rail project. This project involves construction of a 1,800 metre-long rail, siding with slip road infrastructure, to facilitate rail loading and storage capability of the New South Wales Inland Port Logistics and Freight Hub.

Grade Separating Road Interfaces in New South Wales

The Grade Separating Road Interfaces project will receive a total of $187.5 million in funding over four years from 2020-21, to improve public safety. The project is a joint venture between the Australian Government, who will contribute $150 million, and the New South Wales Government, who will contribute $37.5 million. This project interfaces with national, state and regional roads, and the provided funding will enable additional grade separations along the Inland Rail alignment in NSW.

Ettamogah Rail Hub

The Ettamogah Rail Hub (ERH) project will deliver 5 kilometres of new arrival and departure sidings, so that trains calling at ERH can pull off the single track main-line. As of October 2020, trains stop on the main line to exchange wagons at the ERH. This procedure will no longer be an option once Inland Rail is operational. To support the completion of this project, the Australian Government will contribute $2.6 million of grant funding in 2020-21. This funding will be in addition to $9.6 million in existing funding for 2020-21 for the ERH: $7.6 million provided by the New South Wales Government, and $2 million provided from a private fund.

National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety

Australia’s domestic commercial vessel industries are mainly located in coastal and regional Australia and are an important part of tourism, transport and fishing.

Since July 2018, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has been solely responsible for delivering the National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety (the National System), achieving nationally consistent delivery of vessel safety regulation for the first time.

A review of all costs and charges for the National System was to be conducted in 2020-21 and involve wide public consultation. In recognition of the significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Australia’s maritime industries, the Australian Government has decided to delay this review. The review is now expected to commence in mid-2021. The review will consider the appropriateness of charges for the national system, informed by data and public consultation.

To ensure AMSA can continue delivering vital safety regulation for our maritime industries, the Australian Government will provide $11 million funding in 2021‑22 for the National System while the review is being undertaken. Safety standards and services should not be compromised as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, or by deferring the charging review, so the Government is ensuring there is stable funding for AMSA.

This new funding extends the Government’s 2018 commitment – that no levy would be charged to industry for the first three years of AMSA’s delivery of National System services – by 12 months, meaning no levy will be charged to industry in 2021-22.

Total Government transition funding for the National System is now $123.4 million.

Australian Postal Corporation – supporting regional communities

Australia Post maintains a network of over 4,000 Post Offices, including more than 2,500 in regional, rural and remote Australia as of June 2020. Post Offices in rural and regional areas provide important financial services (Bank@Post) and identity services, with many operated in-conjunction with other small businesses.

Australia Post provides over the counter banking services on behalf of more than 70 financial institutions, via Bank@Post, which is a highly valued service in regional, rural and remote areas that do not have banking institution branches. In 2018-19, almost 27 million financial transactions occurred at Australia Post outlets in regional and remote communities.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government has temporarily relaxed letter delivery speed and frequency requirements, allowing Australia Post to redeploy thousands of its letters workforce to process and deliver parcels, which are at record levels. The changes came into effect in May 2020. The Government will assess the effect of these temporary arrangements before the end of 2020, and decide if they are to stay in place until 30 June 2021. The delivery frequency of regular letters in regional, rural and remote Australia is unchanged.

Regional Connectivity Program – additional funding

Access to reliable, affordable and innovative digital services and technologies is critical for regional communities. Improving digital connectivity will support regional industries to continue to navigate recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, capitalise on changed businesses conditions, and better engage in the digital economy.

As part of the Australian Government’s Stronger Regional Connectivity Program, the Government committed $52.6 million in the 2019-20 Budget for a new Regional Connectivity Program (RCP) to fund telecommunications infrastructure grants for targeted, place-based solutions in areas outside of the NBN fixed-line footprint

The Government has committed a further $30.3 million to the RCP in the 2020-21 Budget. This additional investment will expand the number of eligible projects that can be funded under this program, and enable a broader range of regional communities and businesses to leverage the benefits of improved digital connectivity, including in key sectors such as agriculture, tourism, health and education.

New Investments in the National Broadband Network (NBN)

NBN Co Limited (NBN Co) is investing $4.5 billion to deliver better outcomes for residential and business broadband consumers. These investments include:

  • $700 million Business Fibre initiative to offer wholesale symmetrical speeds up to 1 Gbps on-request at no up-front build cost to 90 per cent of business premises. This includes the establishment of 240 Business Fibre Zones to provide metro-equivalent priced enterprise grade broadband to more than 700,000 businesses.
  • $3.5 billion network upgrade program that will provide 75 per cent of NBN fixed line premises with access to ultra-fast broadband by 2023.
  • $300 million development fund to co-invest with local, state and federal governments to boost connectivity in regional Australia.

For regional Australia, the investments by NBN Co are expected to result in:

  • Around 950,000 FTTN premises in regional areas with access to speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) on demand by 2023.
  • 250,000 regional businesses located in Business Fibre Zones with access to ultra-fast broadband capability and metro-equivalent wholesale pricing. 
  • By partnering with state, federal and local governments, the $300 million co-investment fund will deliver more fixed-line broadband infrastructure into the Satellite and Fixed Wireless footprints.
  • Investments are expected to create an estimated 10,000 additional regional jobs.
  • Investments are expected to create an estimated 2,800 new regional businesses.
  • Investments are expected to generate $1.5 billion in additional gross domestic product annually for regional Australia by 2024.
  • $50 million Fibre-to-the-Node (FTTN) line speed uplift program to resolve in-home wiring issues.
  • $50 million Business Fibre co-investment fund to create more regional business fibre zones.

NBN Co will fund these investments from private debt. There will be no impact on the Budget.

Strengthening Telecommunications Against Natural Disasters Package

The Australian Government has committed to a new $37.1 million Strengthening Telecommunications Against Natural Disasters (STAND) Package to prevent, mitigate and manage telecommunications outages during emergencies. This initiative forms a key part of the Government’s $650 million Regional Recovery and Development Program for locally-led bushfire recovery. This initiative will increase network resilience and preparedness so communities can better deal with future emergencies and natural disasters.

The measures within the STAND Package include:

  • $10 million for temporary telecommunications infrastructure deployments, comprising a $1.7 million tied grant to NBN Co for the purchase of five new NBN Road Muster satellite trucks and 12 portable satellite kits and competitive grants open to national carriers for facilities such as cells on wheels (COWS) and mobile exchanges on wheels (MEOWs).
  • $7 million to deliver up to 2000 NBN Co satellite services to rural and country fire service depots and evacuation centres across the country.
  • $2.1 million to improve Government information to communities about access to telecommunications in emergencies.

Access to power is a critical issue for communication networks: the April 2020 Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) report on the impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires found that 1,390 telecommunications facilities across Australia were impacted by the bushfires, and that network outages were overwhelmingly due to loss of power rather than fire damage. As part of the STAND Package, the Government has also committed $18 million for a new Mobile Network Hardening Program to keep mobile infrastructure operating for longer during emergencies, with a focus on strengthening back-up power supplies.

The first stage of the Mobile Network Hardening Program will provide funding to upgrade mobile base stations built under Rounds 1 and 2 of the Mobile Black Spot Program, to increase back-up power to 12 hours, where feasible. The second stage will be a new competitive grants program that will improve the resilience of regional telecommunications infrastructure more broadly.

Australian 5G Innovation Initiative

The next generation of mobile technology, 5G, offers higher speeds and reliability, lower latency, and supports a much higher number of connections. As well as improving mobile services for consumers, the technology can support novel industrial applications that can improve innovation, productivity, and Australia’s international competitiveness. For instance, 5G supports autonomous farm machinery, networks of sensors to monitor crops and environmental conditions, and automated vehicles in the transport sector.

The Australian Government will provide $22.1 million over three years from 2020-21 to support testbeds and trials of 5G technology. A grants program of $20 million will focus on developing 5G applications in sectors where Australia has a competitive advantage, or where the productivity benefits are likely to be significant. The grants program will be open and competitive, and the projects that are funded will be dependent on the applications received. Projects are expected to include those in the agriculture, transport, manufacturing and logistics sectors, where applications of 5G have the potential to support economic development and productivity in regional Australia.

Improved Spectrum Management

The Australian Government will invest in improved systems to manage the allocation of electromagnetic spectrum. Timely allocation of spectrum is required to allow telecommunications providers to deploy 5G services throughout Australia, which will improve telecommunications services and support economic growth in regional areas. The Government will invest $1.8 million over two years from 2020-21 on an updated spectrum auction system, so that high-value, 5G-suitable spectrum can be allocated efficiently.

The Government will also invest $5.3 million over two years from 2020-21 on an updated and simplified digital licence system. Thousands of businesses, including many in regional Australia, rely on access to spectrum to support their operations, for example, to communicate with a helicopter mustering cattle, two-way communications running reef and rainforest tours, and in infrastructure such as remote irrigation systems or managing a grain silo. An updated licence system will make it easier for businesses to apply for and maintain radio communications licences.

Viewer Access Satellite Television

The Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) program provides funding through to 30 June 2024 for broadcasters to deliver commercial free-to-air television services to over 210,000 households, largely in regional and remote areas, who would otherwise not be able to receive free-to-air television services. The VAST service includes dedicated news channels carrying nightly bulletins from regional commercial television broadcasters. The VAST platform is also used by ABC, SBS and some community radio and television broadcasters to deliver broadcasts via satellite to a largely regional and remote audience.

Mobile Black Spot Program

The Australian Government will continue to expand and improve mobile coverage in regional and remote Australia through the Mobile Black Spot Program. The first five rounds of this program have delivered more than 1,200 new base stations, over 870 of which are now on air. The Government has committed to a Round 5A of the Program, which will be used to test a range of different program designs. Funding for Round 5A will be drawn from the unused portion of the funding allocated to Round 5 in the 2019-20 Budget. The Government has consulted with industry and the community on options for the design of Round 5A, including a proposed focus on improving mobile connectivity along major transport corridors and in natural disaster-prone regions, as well as testing new technologies that support shared mobile coverage in regional areas. Round 5A will be launched in the coming months and outcomes from this round will then inform the design of Round 6, for which $80 million was committed in the 2019-20 Budget and which will be rolled out in 2021.

Grainbelt Wireless Solutions Program

As part of the 2019-20 Budget, the Australian Government provided up to $2 million for a feasibility study to assess ways of improving digital connectivity in the Grainbelt region of Western Australia (WA). The feasibility study found that to some extent the increasing demand for connectivity in the region is being supported from the existing infrastructure and services, however there are opportunities in some areas to improve the capacity and reliability of services for local communities and agricultural businesses.

In response to the feasibility study the Government has committed $1.8 million in funding over two years commencing 2020-21 towards a pilot grants program for Wireless Internet Service Providers to provide targeted solutions in the WA Grainbelt. This measure is consistent with the outcomes of the feasibility study and supports improved connectivity in the WA Grainbelt.

Public Interest News Gathering Grant Program and Public Interest News Gathering Grant Program – extension

The Australian Government established the $50 million Public Interest News Gathering (PING) program. PING is funded with the allocation of an additional $18.4 million from the Government, and the repurposing of unallocated funds from the Government’s Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation Package. PING grants support the provision of public interest journalism in regional Australia. The objective of PING is to support regional publishers and broadcasters to maintain or increase their production and distribution of public interest journalism in regional Australia during the COVID‑19 pandemic. On 29 June 2020, the Government announced that 107 regional publishers and broadcasters would share in $50 million under the first stream of the PING Program.

On 18 September 2020, the Government announced that it would provide $5 million to the Australian Associated Press Newswire (AAP) under the PING program. This will benefit regional Australia, as AAP provides services to more than 250 regional news mastheads, covering public interest content on national, state and regional news. 

Support for regional commercial radio and regional and remote commercial television broadcasters

On 15 April 2020, the Australian Government announced, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, that it would provide $41 million in spectrum tax rebates to all commercial television and radio broadcasters. This measure gave regional commercial television and radio broadcasters across Australia immediate financial relief for 12 months from 14 February 2020 until 13 February 2021.

The Australian Government has introduced a Bill that will ease the regulatory burden on regional commercial radio and regional and remote commercial television broadcasters.

The Broadcasting Services Amendment (Regional Commercial Radio and Other Measures) Bill 2020 includes a range of proposed deregulatory measures that will allow regional commercial radio broadcasters more flexibility to satisfy their local content obligations while retaining the amount of local content that regional commercial radio broadcasters are currently required to broadcast to regional Australians. The Bill also proposes to amend the Australian content multi‑channel quota obligation, with the amended obligation requiring a regional or remote commercial television broadcasters to transmit on its multi‑channels no less than the amount of Australian programming broadcast on equivalent multi‑channels carried by its metropolitan affiliate broadcaster. The proposed measures will provide regional commercial radio and regional and remote commercial television broadcasters with more flexibility and certainty in delivering broadcasting services in regional areas, while maintaining obligations to provide material of local significance, upholding regional voices and preserving choice for regional audiences.

Keeping Australians Safe Online

The Australian Government has provided additional $10 million in 2020-21 for the eSafety Commissioner to assist the agency to keep Australians safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will meet an increase in public demand for support to deal with the cyberbullying of Australian children and reports of image-based abuse. The funding will also continue the important work of eSafety in educating Australians, no matter where they live, with practical tips on how to stay safe online.

In addition, the Government’s Online Safety Package will provide the eSafety Commissioner with sustainable and ongoing base funding to allow it to meet the needs of the community. Funding of $39.4 million over three years will position the regulator to meet the growth in demand for support, to deal with an increase in prohibited online content, and to develop and deliver new schemes and industry requirements envisaged by legislative reform (a new Online Safety Act). Proposals for the new Act include:

  • a new adult cyber abuse complaints and take-down scheme
  • a new set of basic online safety expectations for industry that make clear how they should keep users safe online
  • expanding the remit of the eSafety Commissioner’s powers to capture relevant players such as overseas-based social media services, gaming platforms, app stores and search engines
  • a new power for the eSafety Commissioner to act quickly in a crisis to ask internet service providers to block access to terrorist and extreme violent content
  • greater powers to the eSafety Commissioner to issue take-down notices for seriously harmful content – no matter where in the world this is hosted.

Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund

On 24 April 2020, the Australian Government announced the opening of a $5 million grant program (with a maximum of $400,000 per applicant), administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, to support regional and small publishers. On 5 August 2020, the Australian Government announced that 41 regional and small metropolitan publishers would share $5 million to boost the sustainability and ongoing production of news in a modern media environment.

National Water Infrastructure Development Fund

The Australian Government is currently developing a rolling 10-year investment schedule commencing in 2020-21 for water infrastructure projects, and is providing an additional $2 billion in grant funding for the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund in the 2020-21 Budget. Investment in water infrastructure will increase from $1.5 billion to $3.5 billion, helping fast-track projects through the staged development of business cases to construction and completion, while helping support economic recovery.

The Australian Government’s long-term strategic approach to funding water infrastructure projects will:

  • Increase Australia’s national water security, build resilience to future drought and support agriculture and primary industries.
  • Identify priority water infrastructure projects through a strategic assessment of existing water plans, priority lists and feasibility studies; identify advice from the National Water Grid Advisory Body; and conduct scientific investigations to identify opportunities outside traditional agricultural areas of Australia.

Western Queensland Irrigation and Agriculture Scheme Assessment

The Australian Government will provide $3 million over two years, from 2020-21 to 2021-22, through the North Queensland Water Infrastructure Authority to support potential new irrigation based development opportunities in regional northern and western Queensland.

This initiative will enable a technical and engineering assessment to identify prospective areas in Burdekin Basin and Flinders River Basin suitable for large scale irrigation through the provision of water infrastructure. The project complements the Hells Gates Dam Scheme detailed business case project.

Building Better Regions Fund

The Australian Government has announced a further $200 million towards a fifth round of the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF). Round Five includes $100 million for tourism related infrastructure while maintaining $100 million for broader community infrastructure and investment, bringing the total commitment for this program to $1 billion from 2017-8 to 2023-24.

Partnering with governments and other stakeholders to realise the full potential of a range of economic and regional development opportunities, the BBRF supports regional and remote communities by funding investment-ready infrastructure projects that will create jobs and drive economic growth. It also funds new or expanded events, strategic regional plans, or leadership and capability strengthening activities that provide economic and social benefits to these regions. Local governments and incorporated not-for-profit organisations are eligible to apply.

The first four rounds of BBRF resulted in 995 projects being approved for funding, delivering a range of benefits to regional and remote Australia, such as:

  • the provision of a grant to the Apollo Bay Aquatic Centre in Victoria upgrading the existing outdoor pool into an indoor heated facility for all year swimming ($180,000)
  • extension of Bogan Shire Medical Centre in Nyngan, New South Wales ($350,218)
  • construction of Ravensthorpe Cultural precinct in Western Australia ($5,275,800)
  • boosting the region of Murweh in South West Queensland, through the Morven Rail Hub project, with a grant of just over $4 million.

Round 4 closed on 19 December 2019. On 5 June 2020, the Australian Government announced 163 successful projects with a commitment of $207.1 million. A key priority of Round 4 is to help stimulate local economies and deliver jobs by investing in shovel ready projects in drought-affected regional communities.

Stronger Communities Programme

The Stronger Communities Programme (SCP) provides funding to small capital projects which deliver important social benefits to communities across Australia.

The Australian Government will provide a further $22.7 million in the 2020-21 Budget to deliver a sixth round of the SCP, bringing the total commitment for this program to $122.5 million between 2015-16 and 2020-21. More than 10,000 community-based projects have secured funding under the first five rounds of the program.

The SCP provides funding of up to $150,000 in each of the 151 federal electorates. Members of the House of Representatives will continue their role in identifying key, locally driven projects, with available funding of between $2,500 and $20,000 for eligible projects.

Input from the community is a key element of the SCP. Each Federal Member of Parliament is required to establish a community consultation committee to identify projects for consideration under the program.

In recognition of the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities, applications submitted in Round 6 by all incorporated not-for-profit organisations and/or incorporated trustees applying on behalf of a trust will be exempt from the normal 50 per cent co-funding requirement, and will be able to apply for funding of up to 100 per cent of their eligible projects costs.

Drought Communities Programme Extension

The Drought Communities Programme (DCP) Extension supports communities in the most drought-affected regions of Australia. $301 million has been committed by the Australian Government from 2018-19 to 2020-21, including $205 million announced throughout 2019-20 for 180 councils This includes $14 million announced for 14 Local Government Areas during the April 2019 election. Projects will provide short-term support, use local resources, deliver an economic stimulus and support communities facing hardship.

Over 450 projects have been funded across New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia, creating jobs, supporting local businesses and improving infrastructure used by communities.

Drought Community Support Initiative

The Australian Government is investing $181.5 million in the Drought Community Support Initiative (DCSI) to provide immediate financial assistance to farming households suffering the impacts of drought. Financial support of up to $3,000 per household is available to eligible farmers, farm workers, farm suppliers and contractors in Local Government Areas (LGAs) eligible for the DCP Extension.

In 2019-20, the DCSI end date was extended from 30 June 2020 to 31 December 2020 to ensure that support continues to be provided to farming households impacted by drought. $148.5 million was provided for Round 2, bringing total program funding to $181.5 million. This includes $33 million committed in September 2019, $33 million committed in December 2019 and $82.5 million committed in January 2020.

Round 2 of the DCSI has provided funding assistance to over 33,000 farming households impacted by drought in 180 LGAs across New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.

Drought Communities Outreach Program

In June 2020, the Australian Government provided $5 million in grant funding to Rotary Australia World Community Service Limited (Rotary) from the Drought Communities Outreach Program. Through Rotary, the Government is providing $500 vouchers to farming households facing hardship as a result of the drought. Rotary will also support the on-the-ground community outreach activities.

The program will improve economic activity in drought-impacted regions, as support to households is largely spent in local businesses.

Regional Recovery Partnerships

The Australian Government has committed $100 million over two years from 2020-21 to fund Regional Recovery Partnerships. The Partnerships will coordinate investments with other levels of government to support recovery and growth in 10 regions: the Snowy Mountains, Hunter and Newcastle and Parkes Regions in New South Wales, Cairns and Tropical North Queensland, Gladstone and Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday Regions in Queensland, the Gippsland Region in Victoria, Kangaroo Island in South Australia, the South West Region of Western Australia and all of Tasmania.

The partnerships seek to back-in existing regional plans by developing targeted initiatives with contributions from all levels of government to deliver jobs, economic recovery and economic diversification.

The identified regions offer a compelling contribution to national resilience and recovery as they have experienced the brunt of COVID-19 and they present significant emerging opportunities to diversify the region’s economy to drive long term national growth and resilience.

Building Strong, Resilient Regional Leaders

The Australian Government is investing in current and emerging regional leaders to further develop current leadership and resilience skills to support their local communities through future economic challenges. The Building Strong, Resilient Regional Leaders initiative will invest $5 million over three years from 2020-21 to engage a training provider to deliver place based leadership training. Local leaders have a significant role to play in boosting the resilience and vibrancy of their community. Recent events, such as floods, bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic have tested local regional leaders in unprecedented ways and it is more important than ever to ensure leaders are supported to develop their skills and tenacity. Investing in the leadership capacity within regional communities by supporting resilience training and development for leaders will ensure adaptability and togetherness into the future.

Continued Funding for the Regional Australia Institute

The Australian Government will continue its investment to the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) Intergovernmental Shared Inquiry Program, committing a further $400,000 over two years from 2020-21 towards the research program. The Intergovernmental Shared Inquiry Program is a collaborative partnership between RAI, governments with regional development responsibilities, and a select number of universities. The research and policy program explores opportunities and challenges facing regional communities—now and into the future—to better inform and coordinate government policy responses.

The Australian Government will also contribute $4.6 million over two years from 2020-21 towards RAI’s National Awareness Campaign. This will promote the benefits and opportunities of living in regional Australia, helping to recover from recent crises such as COVID-19, the summer bushfires, drought and flood events.

Regionalisation and Decentralisation

The Australian Government is continuing to pursue its Decentralisation Agenda. The 2020-21 Budget includes two new components:

  • The Securing Raw Materials Program ($35 million over two years from 2020-21) will enable the Government to provide up to $5 million of matched funding to support research and development activities associated with securing a reliable and commercially viable raw material supply for businesses that relocate to regional Australia from a metropolitan area. The program will target businesses that enter into research businesses partnerships with regional universities or other regionally-based research organisations. 
  • The Regional Cooperative Research Centres Project (RCRC-P) ($6 million over three years from 2020-21) will provide one-off grant funding to eligible businesses for short-term industry-led collaborations to tackle issues in prominent regional industries. 

As a pilot, grant recipients will receive matched funding of up to $3 million for a period of up to three years. Eligible research projects must be based in regional Australia, and at least one collaborating entity must relocate from an excluded metropolitan area for the duration of the project. Based on the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources’ Cooperative Research Centres Project (CRC-P) model, RCRC-P funding could be used to pay for research, salaries, student placements, commercialisation, or capital items.

Local Government Financial Assistance Grant

The Local Government Financial Assistance Grant program was established under the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995 and provides financial assistance to local governments across Australia to enable them to meet local priorities. The Australian Government is continuing the Financial Assistance Grant program, which will provide an estimated $9.2 billion to local government over the period 2020-21 to 2023-24.

The funding is untied and consists of two components:

  • a general purpose component distributed between the states and territories according to population
  • an identified local road component distributed between the states and territories according to fixed historical shares.

The Australian Government made an early payment during the 2019-20 financial year of approximately 50 per cent of the 2020-21 Financial Assistance Grant funding. This cash injection of more than $1.3 billion gave councils vital support to assist with the combined impacts of drought, bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Better Data Use to Support Delivery for Regional Australians

The Australian Government has invested $13.7 million over four years commencing in 2020-21 for the Better Data Use to Support Delivery for Regional Australians program, which will provide government and community decision-makers with better economic, social and demographic data on regional Australia, including publicly accessible and searchable location-specific information. Improving outcomes for regional Australians requires better tracking of data on the state of the regions, as well as better information for governments and local communities making decisions that affect those communities. The program will address the critical need for coordinated, comprehensive and accessible economic, social and demographic data on regional Australia. It will make more of this information publically accessible and searchable by location, helping government and community decision-makers improve targeting and delivery of projects and track progress in Australia’s regional communities.

Darwin City Deal – Education and Community Precinct

The Australian Government is bringing forward $74.8 million, to be implemented over three years from 2019-20 to 2021-22, to fast‑track the delivery of the Education and Community Precinct (the Precinct) in the Darwin City Deal for the Northern Territory. The Precinct project will be an important hub for the whole Darwin community and includes construction of a university campus, library and carpark in Darwin’s city centre. Bringing forward the funding means that construction can start sooner, as early as October 2020. This will provide a boost to Darwin’s economy, create jobs and support local businesses.

COVID-19 Response Package – External Territories

The Australian Government will provide $13.5 million in 2020-21 (including $5.7 million in capital funding) for an infrastructure and tourism package to stimulate and support the economies of Norfolk Island and the Indian Ocean Territories during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Response package – Relief and Recovery Funds

The Australian Government has committed $1.4 million in 2020-21 to maintain sea freight services to the Indian Ocean Territories as part of the Relief and Recovery fund to support regions, communities and industry sectors that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Services to Territories Program

The Australian Government will provide $61 million over four years from 2020-21 to proactively manage imminent emergency situations on Norfolk Island and Jervis Bay Territory and continue to deliver essential services for the community.

The Australian Government has responsibility for delivering state and Commonwealth services and infrastructure to the Norfolk Island and Jervis Bay Territory communities. This funding will be used for the following:

  • Underwriting of passenger services and freight subsidies to support regular and reliable air services to Norfolk Island.
  • Ongoing management and operation of the Norfolk Island Museum and research centre, as well as maintenance and repairs at the World Heritage Listed Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area.
  • Managing and supporting court and legal proceedings for Norfolk Island both on Norfolk Island and on the mainland.
  • Maintaining and managing Commonwealth owned assets, land and facilities such as the health facility, ports and community infrastructure.
  • Conducting targeted quarantine surveys to enable informed biosecurity decisions to promote economic development while conserving Norfolk Island’s unique environment.
  • Acquiring and managing a fit-for-purpose marine search and rescue vessel for the Australian Federal Police, increasing the safety and protection of the Norfolk Island community and tourists.
  • Assisting the Norfolk Island Regional Council to deal with pressures arising from the COVID-19 state of emergency.
  • Continuing delivery of enabling services for Norfolk Island including information technology and connectivity, workers compensation and performance audits.
  • Resourcing to support the ongoing emergency management functions related to bushfires and COVID-19 in the Jervis Bay Territory.

This initiative will build on the Australian Government’s commitment of ensuring the Norfolk Island and Jervis Bay Territory communities remain resilient and economically sustainable.

The Australian Government will also provide $28.9 million over 3 years from 2020-21 to manage the risks of stormwater, flooding, landslide and rockfall on Christmas Island, including $27.8 million of capital funding.

The infrastructure upgrades will provide safe workplaces and protect the community and visitors living, working or visiting in the Flying Fish Cove precinct.

COVID-19 National and World Heritage Projects

The Australian Government will provide $0.8 million under the COVID-19 National and World Heritage Projects program to build new visitor information and interpretation infrastructure at the Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area (Kingston) on Norfolk Island.

Kingston is a place of outstanding heritage value to the people of Norfolk Island, the Australian and International communities. This project will present and communicate the Kingston’s rich and complex natural and cultural landscape as a vibrant, living place.

COVID-19 Response Package – arts and culture initiatives

The Australian Government is providing $27 over two years from 2019-20 for an arts support package for regional arts, the charity Support Act and Indigenous art centres and Indigenous art fairs to provide crisis relief and targeted support to organisations, artists and arts workers. Arts organisations in regional areas, which are integral to regional economies and community cohesion need to maintain a core level of activity to support the people who rely on their contributions to Australian culture and creativity.

This support package comprises:

  • An additional $10 million for the Regional Arts Fund (the Fund), for artists and arts organisations to develop new work and to explore new business models. The Fund is administered through a national network of arts organisations, and managed by Regional Arts Australia, an established not-for-profit body with a strong understanding of the role and challenges that regional organisations face as a focal point for communities and their artistic and cultural identity.
  • $10 million for the music industry charity Support Act, to provide immediate crisis relief to artists, crew and music workers who are affected by the COVID-19 crisis and to boost its Wellbeing Helpline. Support Act is the only Australian charity delivering crisis relief and counselling services for people who work in the Australian music and broader arts industry, whose ability to work has been affected by ill health, injury, a mental health issue, or some other crisis.
  • An additional $7 million ($3.5 million in the last months of 2019-20 and $3.5 million in 2020-21) for the Indigenous art centres and Indigenous art fairs supported through the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support (IVAIS) program to allow Indigenous art centres and Indigenous art fairs to continue their operations during the COVID‑19 crisis. Indigenous art centres are often at the heart of community life and can be central to the social and economic wellbeing of communities, and facilitators for the intergenerational transmission of culture. As local employers, they support training and career pathways for Indigenous arts workers, enabling them to earn income and gain skills while remaining on Country.

COVID-19 Creative Economy JobMaker package

In recognition of the economic, social and national importance of the cultural and creative sector, the Australian Government has provided a comprehensive $250 million COVID‑19 Creative Economy JobMaker package over 2020-21 to support the sector to get back in business following the disruptions caused by COVID-19. The package will benefit arts organisations, artists, arts workers and audiences across Australia, including in regional and remote areas.

The package includes:

  • Support for up to $90 million in loans in 2020-21 by establishing the Show Starter Loan Scheme, to assist arts and entertainment businesses to fund new productions and events. The loans will be delivered through commercial banks, backed by a 100 per cent Commonwealth guarantee.
  • $75 million in 2020-21 to establish the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund to provide competitive grants to support new events or productions as social distancing restrictions ease. This Fund provides assistance for businesses in the arts and entertainment sector to develop and produce new works, including in regional and remote Australia. Regional economies benefit from the arts, which is inextricably linked with other industries including tourism, hospitality and transport. Domestic arts tourism supports jobs and the economy, particularly for communities in regional and remote areas of Australia.
  • $50 million in 2020-21 to establish a Temporary Interruption Fund for the local film and television sector so it can secure funding to commence production.
  • $35 million in 2020-21 to assist Commonwealth-funded arts and culture organisations facing threats to their viability. Losing creative and cultural businesses would reduce opportunities and experiences for all Australians, including those living in regional and remote Australia. Not only are many of these funded organisations based in regional Australia, but those based in metropolitan areas have reach beyond their place of residence. For example, performing arts companies engage in regional and remote Australia through touring shows, educational programs, digital initiatives and community development partnerships.
  • A Creative Economy Taskforce to provide advice on the implementation of the COVID‑19 Creative Economy JobMaker package. The Taskforce will involve industry experts with extensive creative sector knowledge, and from a variety of areas of expertise, who will help guide assistance for Australia’s creative sector as it adapts to and recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Taskforce’s focus will be helping Australia’s creative sector, including in regional and remote communities, transition to a ‘new normal’. Membership of the Taskforce was announced on 22 August 2020.

In addition to the COVID-19 Creative Economy JobMaker package, the Government will provide $400 million over seven years from 2020-21 to extend the Location Incentive Program to attract international investment in the screen industry and provide local employment and training opportunities.

Bundanon Trust

In addition to operational funding, the Bundanon Trust received $1 million for losses and costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and the January 2020 bushfires. As part of the $8 million 2019‑20 Budget measure National Collecting Institutions – capital works funding, the Bundanon Trust also received $0.6 million in support.

The Bundanon Trust facilitates arts practice and engagement with the arts through a diverse range of programs such as its artist in residence, education, performance and environmental programs which have long-term cultural, economic and social benefits for the Shoalhaven region, in New South Wales, and beyond.