Foreword: Regional Australia—A Stronger Economy Delivering Stronger Regions 2018–19

With a third of Australians living, working and raising their families outside our capital cities, regional Australia is at the forefront of this Government’s agenda. And with more people calling regional Australia home each year, it is clear that the growth of our nation will not all happen in the capital cities, but in our towns and regional cities.

Regional Australia has long been the engine room of the economy with around 30 per cent of our annual GDP generated by our regions. Rural and regional Australia is home to the highest quality food, fibre and resources in the world and these make up 61 per cent of the goods Australia sells on the global market. Most of our iconic tourist attractions are in regional Australia and 43 cents out of every dollar spent by a tourist in Australia goes to a regional business.

Australia is in its 27th year of economic growth, which has seen 415,000 jobs created in 2017. Around a third of these jobs were created in the regions. This is a great result, but we need to keep working with local communities to ensure they continue to thrive.

The Liberal and Nationals Government is delivering on our vision for regional Australia. We are continuing to grow our regional economies, creating new and better paying jobs and giving families the opportunity to keep living and working in our regional communities.

Your access to world-class healthcare, high-quality education, 21st Century communications and transport connections should not be limited by your geographic location. This Government is increasing our investment in rural and regional Australia to help level the playing field between the regions and cities.

The 2018‑19 Budget includes more than 500 initiatives, including over 100 new programs focused on creating jobs and supporting economic growth in Australia’s regions.

With this Budget the Australian Government is continuing to back Australian business growth and investment across the nation. Reducing the tax burden on businesses will help them invest, grow, employ more Australians and pay higher wages. To further support small businesses and improve their cash flow, the Australian Government will extend the $20,000 instant asset write-off for a further 12 months to 30 June 2019.

For the first time, the Government has committed to a decade-long $75 billion Infrastructure Investment Pipeline for new and upgraded transport infrastructure projects, with the aim of increasing productivity, boosting local communities, connecting our regions and cities, and creating local jobs.

Of crucial significance is our investment in rail infrastructure, including the $9.3 billion in equity and grant funding for Inland Rail, which will connect our farmers and our regional businesses, through the ports in Melbourne to Brisbane, to the world. During its construction, which is scheduled to commence in mid-2018, this project will support around 16,000 jobs. Once operational, it will provide faster, more efficient and more reliable connections for our regions to get their products to market and take advantage of the tremendous opportunities offered throughout Asia and beyond.

Through the Pipeline, we are making major commitments to road projects. Key investments include: $3.3 billion to continue to improve safety, capacity and flood immunity on the Bruce Highway in Queensland and further improvements to the Pacific Highway, including $971 million towards the construction of a bypass of Coffs Harbour. The Coffs Harbour Bypass will increase amenity in this regional centre and enable safer and more efficient freight movements along the New South Wales north coast.

Our investment builds on existing commitments, including $160 million to continue upgrading the Outback Way, which crosses Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland and new projects to address regional freight constraints, including $155 million towards a new bridge across the Shoalhaven River at Nowra Bridge in New South Wales, and $160 million for the Joy Baluch Bridge in South Australia. Other Pipeline projects in regional Australia include $560 million to construct the Bunbury Outer Ring Road in Western Australia, $180 million for the Central Arnhem Road and $100 million for the Buntine Highway upgrades in the Northern Territory, and $132 million to complete the Princes Highway East duplication from Traralgon to Sale in Victoria.

The Pipeline also includes an investment in Roads of Strategic Importance (ROSI). Under the ROSI scheme, we will invest $3.5 billion to support upgrades to key road freight corridors in regional Australia.

ROSI will support a range of upgrades to important regional roads, including in Northern Australia, Tasmania and connections from regional New South Wales into the Australian Capital Territory. Investment in these routes will support our regional economies by better connecting farmers and regional businesses with new and existing domestic and international markets, while assisting our regional workforce to get to their jobs on time and home safely to spend time with their families. As these routes are also major tourist roads, upgrades will support the growing visitor economy in regional Australia.

The Government’s investments in our regional communities build confidence, encourage private-sector investment and create jobs. That is why, in this Budget, the Australian Government has announced a further $200 million to deliver a third round of the Building Better Regions Fund, bringing the total commitment for this program to $641.6 million between 2017-18 and 2021-22. Recognising the importance of tourism infrastructure as a key driver of economic development, the Government will earmark up to $45 million for tourism-related infrastructure projects in our regions.

This increased investment in the Building Better Regions Fund is complemented by the ongoing roll-out of the $272.2 million Regional Growth Fund, which will unlock economic opportunities in our regions. An additional $22.5 million will also be provided to deliver a fourth round of the Stronger Communities Programme, which has been successfully delivering new equipment and improved facilities for local organisations in our regions.

Our Government is committed to a practical, planned decentralisation agenda supporting the growth of our regional areas and connecting government agencies with the communities and citizens that they serve. A significant number of Australian public sector jobs are already being located in regional areas and, as part of its Decentralisation Agenda, the Government is continuing to move positions from Canberra, central Sydney and Melbourne. The Government will continue to identify and announce options for further decentralisation throughout 2018-19. Government investment in decentralisation is just one part of the puzzle and we continue to provide the conditions that encourage private sector businesses to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities outside our capital cities by relocating to the regions.

The 2018-19 Budget is also focussed on building Australian agriculture as the sector aims to grow towards its aspirational goal of being a $100 billion industry by 2030. This Government has committed $51.3 million over four years to ensure Australia’s continued growth and competitiveness in agriculture and food exports. These resources will help farmers and exporters seize opportunities in global food chains and build on our success in negotiating trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea, as well as the 11 nations that have signed-on to the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Access to secure water is critical to the productivity and sustainability of our primary industries and the communities which depend on them. Through the $580 million National Water Infrastructure Development Fund and the $2.0 billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility, the Government has committed $614 million to build new water infrastructure, including in loan funding, which will provide secure and affordable water. This investment has seen construction commence on the Macalister Irrigation District modernisation, South West Loddon Pipeline projects in Victoria and the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme in South Australia. We look forward to seeing work start on the $394 million Myalup-Wellington project in Western Australia, the $352 million Rookwood Weir in Queensland and the $51 million Scottsdale Irrigation Scheme in Tasmania.

Reliable and affordable energy is of paramount importance across Australia, including in our regions. The Government is investing in nation-building infrastructure projects in the energy sector including Snowy 2.0 which will expand the original Snowy Mountains scheme with an additional 2,000 megawatts (MW) of capacity and 350,000MW hours of storage. It is expected to create up to 5,000 jobs and, by producing enough storage to power 500,000 homes for a week, it will assist in ensuring the affordability and stability of our electricity market.

Thriving modern economies depend on good communications infrastructure which is why the Government is continuing to roll out the National Broadband Network and fix mobile black spots across Australia. Through NBN Co, the Government will provide 2.5 million regional premises with fixed-line broadband, 600,000 premises with access to fixed wireless services and 400,000 premises with access to improved satellite services. In addition, the $220.0 million Mobile Black Spot Program is continuing to better connect regional communities and businesses by building 765 new base stations in places with poor or no coverage.

As well as investing in better infrastructure, the Government is working to improve services in regional Australia. A key theme in this year’s Budget is the commitment to enhancing access to education and health services for people in regional and rural Australia.

The Stronger Rural Health Strategy will deliver the most comprehensive rural health package which will improve access to doctors, nurses and other health care services for all Australians, especially those in the regions.

As part of this strategy, the Government will establish a Murray-Darling Medical School Network to support end-to-end training in the regions and improve the distribution of the medical workforce. The Network will be comprised of six university medical schools in the regions to ensure more Australian-trained doctors will be able to train and practice in regional areas.

To further support the supply of doctors in rural and regional areas, the Government will provide $793.9 million over four years from 2018‑19 to the Rural Health and Multidisciplinary Training Program. The program funds a network of 18 rural clinical schools, 15 University Departments of Rural Health, six dental schools which support extended rural placements and 26 regional training hubs.

The Australian Government is providing $28 million to expand the availability of sub-bachelor (including enabling) places to allow greater access to higher education for rural and regional students. Around 500 additional Commonwealth-supported places will be provided to regional institutions from 2019. The Government will also provide $14 million for an additional 500 places for students at regional study hubs by 2022.

Further, the Government will provide an additional $123.5 million for additional Commonwealth supported places at the University of the Sunshine Coast, the University of Tasmania and Southern Cross University.

An additional 2,300 rural, regional and remote students will benefit thanks to easier access to Youth Allowance for tertiary education announced in the 2018-19 Budget. The Government is expanding the number of regional students eligible to be considered ‘independent’ under the regional workforce participation rules.

Under the Quality Schools reform package, the Government is implementing a new needs-based funding model. Commonwealth funding for students in regional and remote Australia will grow from $3.9 billion in 2017 to $6.8 billion in 2027—an increase of 75 per cent. Per student annual funding for regional, rural and remote students will grow by 4.9% over that period.

In order to ensure regional and rural students have access to better educational opportunities in the communities in which they live, the Government is providing funding to develop alternative employment-based pathways for high achieving graduates from a variety of fields to become teachers. This measure is aimed at increasing the number and distribution of quality teachers in Australia.

The Government is supporting communities and addressing inequalities in regional Australia by creating more job opportunities and ensuring better services are available. The 2018-19 Budget is investing $18.4 million in Regional Employment Trials to commence in ten selected regions on 1 October 2018. Under these trials, employment facilitators will work with local stakeholders to design and implement employment solutions specific to local problems. To assist with this task, $1 million in grant funding will be available in each region to support projects which help job seekers connect to and prepare for local employment opportunities.

We are also supporting employment opportunities for our regions through targeted programs such as the $10.3 million Stronger Transitions package. This intensive assistance package will support workers in industries and regions significantly impacted by structural change to help them transition to future jobs from 1 July 2018.

The Liberal and Nationals Government will deliver childcare reform by investing an additional $2.5 billion to provide more support for families around Australia. The centrepiece of the new package is the new Child Care Subsidy, which will commence from 2 July 2018. Support for rural and remote families is an important feature of these reforms.

In addition, our $1.2 billion Child Care Safety Net aims to give the most vulnerable children a strong start. An equivalent of the $61.8 million allocation under the Budget Based Funded (BBF) program is being set aside for transitioning BBF services, which predominantly operate in rural and remote communities.

Looking after our older Australians is a priority for this Government. We will invest around $40 million in capital grants over four years from 2019-20 for aged care facilities in regional, rural and remote Australia and to improve access for older people living in these locations. Funding will support critical upgrades and expanding existing aged care facilities. Eligible aged care providers will be able to apply for a one-off grant in late 2018‑19.

The Liberal and Nationals Government is committed to delivering the infrastructure and services regional Australians need. The depth and range of measures in the 2018‑19 Budget reflects this Government’s commitment to support sustainable regional communities where our children and grandchildren want to live, learn and work. It demonstrates the Government’s determination to maximise social and economic opportunities for all Australians, wherever they live. Our regional plan is focused on building and connecting local communities, boosting local economies and creating local jobs.

The Honourable Michael McCormack MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport

The Honourable Dr John McVeigh MP
Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government

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