Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities: Regional Australia—A Stronger Economy Delivering Stronger Regions 2018–19

The Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities portfolio contributes to the prosperity of the economy and the wellbeing of all Australians through the design and implementation of the Australian Government’s regional development, infrastructure and transport policies and programs. The portfolio promotes new jobs, productivity improvements, economic growth and sustainability through significant social and infrastructure investment in all areas of Australia, including to communities in regional Australia.

Through this Government’s $75 billion investment in transport infrastructure, Australians living in regional and remote areas benefit from better connections to essential services and employment. Transport infrastructure allows the safe and efficient movement of millions of tonnes of freight from farm gates and factories to markets across Australia and connects our producers with opportunities in the global economy.

In 2018-19, the Government has for the first time committed to a credible, decade-long Infrastructure Investment Pipeline of projects, which has been prioritised based on the capacity of projects to drive Australia’s economic growth in an environment of a growing population and constrained Government budgets.

Through the Pipeline, the Australian Government has made major commitments to deliver a range of road and rail infrastructure projects, which support regional development and our local communities.  The Government is delivering the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project providing $9.3 billion in equity and grant funding to the Australian Rail Track Corporation to construct the Inland Rail. The Inland Rail project will connect regional communities in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland to vital export markets.

Further investments include continued funding to improve safety, capacity and flood immunity on the Bruce Highway in Queensland and further improvements to the Pacific Highway, involving the construction of a bypass of Coffs Harbour to increase amenity in this regional centre and enable more efficient freight movements along the New South Wales north coast.

To implement the Government’s commitments, this portfolio will work with state and territory governments and local councils to deliver infrastructure projects through shared funding arrangements to support our growers and producers and boost our rural and regional productivity and sustainability.

An efficient freight system is essential to the competitiveness of Australian business, which in turn underpins the living standards of all Australians. In 2018-19 the Government will lead the development of a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy though the COAG Transport and Infrastructure Council. This will provide a framework for all Australian governments and industry to develop a rolling 20-year action plan to support continuous improvements in the movement of domestic and international freight. The Strategy will guide the development of several initiatives announced in this Budget, including allocation of funding under the new Roads of Strategic Importance initiative.

The Government will deliver the $272.2 million Regional Growth Fund, which support major transformational projects that deliver long-term economic growth and create sustainable jobs in our regions. This initiative will be bolstered by an additional investment of $200 million in the Building Better Regions Fund which will fund local projects that create jobs, boost local economies and support strong regional communities.

New Initiatives

National Pipeline of major projects and initiatives

The Pipeline includes over 40 new major transport projects and initiatives that will address the needs of our regional areas and major cities. This long term Pipeline of nationally significant investments demonstrates the Government’s commitment to support industry, grow jobs and deliver economic prosperity.

This investment builds on existing commitments and includes $3.3 billion to continue funding to the Bruce Highway, bringing the Australian Government’s total commitment to $10 billion, $971 million towards the Pacific Highway for the construction of a bypass of Coffs Harbour; and $160 million to continue with upgrades to the Outback Way, across Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. It also includes new projects to address regional freight constraints, such as:

investing $155 million to upgrade the Nowra Bridge in New South Wales

$170 million towards the construction of the $340 million Cunningham Highway -Yamanto to Ebenezer (Amberley Interchange) in Queensland

$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, $100 million for the Buntine Highway upgrades in the Northern Territory, and a further  $50 million for the Geelong Rail Line Upgrade in Victoria.

Roads of Strategic Importance Initiative

In addition to funding for new projects, the Government has announced major new initiatives through the 2018-19 Budget that will significantly benefit regional Australia.

The Roads of Strategic Importance initiative (ROSI) will receive $3.5 billion through the Infrastructure Investment Program over ten years. ROSI will support upgrades to key road freight corridors in regional Australia to increase network reliability and connectivity. Of this funding, $1.5 billion has been allocated to roads in Northern Australia.

Investment in regional routes will support local jobs and regional economic activity by better connecting farms and factories with their markets across Australia and around the world. These major roads are also used by tourists and the upgrades will have broader benefits to regional Australia by supporting tourism.

Corridors for investment through ROSI will be identified through analysis of network performance and consultation with stakeholders, including the heavy vehicle industry and state and territory governments.

Works funded through ROSI may include addressing safety hazards, increasing the quality of the road to allow for high capacity freight services, upgrading bridges and addressing impediments to local freight and tourist connectivity. Funding is specifically earmarked to support upgrades of regional corridors in Northern Australia, Tasmania, the Great Northern Highway in Western Australia and connections from regional New South Wales into the Australian Capital Territory.

The ROSI initiatives are in addition to the funding for projects in each state and territory under the continuing Black Spot Program.

Urban Congestion Initiative

The Australian Government recognises the burden congestion places on people’s lives, meaning we spend less time with our families and on businesses which have to suffer productivity and financial costs. In the 2018-19 Budget the Government is continuing its ongoing commitment to alleviate congestion not only through investments in major urban projects in the Pipeline but also through the targeted $1 billion Urban Congestion Initiative.

As a significant proportion of regional freight is destined for domestic markets in urban areas, and with many of Australia’s major export facilities also located in our cities, the Urban Congestion Initiative will complement the ROSI initiative by reducing the time freight takes to get to its final destination.

Major Project Business Case Fund

The Government is also contributing $250 million to a new Major Project Business Case Fund for planning nationally significant projects beyond the Pipeline announced at Budget. The Fund will enable the Australian Government to continue to partner with state and territory governments in the development of nationally significant projects and to influence their design to achieve the greatest level of value for money for the investment.

The Australian Government has committed $15 million for planning for the Toowoomba to Brisbane Passenger Rail and $10 million for EastLink WA (Orange Route) through the Major Project Business Case Fund.

National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety

The domestic commercial vessel industry is mainly located in coastal and regional Australia and is an important part of the tourism, transport and fishing industries. 

From 1 July 2018, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) will assume full service delivery of the National System for Domestic Commercial Vessel Safety, which will achieve nationally consistent safety regulation for the first time, improve safety outcomes and reduce barriers for industry. This new national system will be funded through the introduction of cost recovery charges.

However, to allow time for the industry to transition to nationally-consistent charges and full cost recovery, the Government will provide $55.0 million over ten years from 2018-19 toward a $102.4 million joint funding package with the states and the Northern Territory.

No levy will be charged to industry in 2018-19. From 1 July 2019, levy charges will be gradually increased. This will ensure fair and equitable treatment of all operators as charging arrangements are standardised and services transition across Australia.

Regional Aviation Access Program

Through the Regional Aviation Access Program, the Australian Government provides targeted support for aerodrome infrastructure (Remote Airstrip Upgrade component) and air services to remote areas (Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme component) where they are not commercially viable.

The 2018-19 Budget will allocate an additional $24.0 million over four years to the Remote Airstrip Upgrade component to provide grants to undertake safety and access works at airstrips in remote locations.

This funding builds upon the 2015-16 Budget which allocated $33.7 million over the four years to June 2019.  To date, 175 remote airstrip projects have been approved to receive assistance, including $7.04 million (GST exclusive) approved for 31 projects under Round 5 that was announced on 23 March 2018.

Building Better Regions Fund

The Australian Government has announced $200.0 million to deliver a third round of the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF), bringing the total commitment for this program to $641.6 million from 2017-18 to 2021-22.  The program is supporting regional and remote communities to partner with governments and other stakeholders and take advantage of a range of economic and regional development opportunities.  Local governments and incorporated not-for-profit organisations are eligible to apply.

Round 1 of the BBRF resulted in 257 projects being funded across regional Australia. Successful applications for round two will be announced in mid-2018.

In 2018-19, a key priority for the BBRF will be to help stimulate local economies by investing in the tourism sector. Forty-three cents of every tourism dollar is spent in regional Australia, and the number of domestic and international tourists visiting our regions grows every year. This is a vital sector for our regional economies, creating jobs, stimulating new business and sustaining long term economic growth. 

The Government wants to help regions unlock their tourism potential and has earmarked up to $45.0 million from the next round of BBRF for tourism-related infrastructure projects that build on our successes in this sector. 

Stronger Communities Programme

The Australian Government will provide $22.5 million to deliver a fourth round of the Stronger Communities Programme (SCP) in 2018-19. The SCP supports small capital projects that deliver important social benefits to communities across Australia.

Similar to the first three rounds of the SCP, round four will make funding of $150,000 available in each of the 150 Federal Electorates in 2018-19. Members of Parliament will continue their role in identifying suitable projects, with funding of between $2,500 and $20,000 available for eligible projects. SCP grant funding must be matched in cash or in‑kind on at least a dollar for dollar basis.

The previous three rounds of SCP provided $22.5 million per year from 2015-16 to 2017-18. Input from the community is a key element of the SCP. Each Member of Parliament is required to establish a community consultation committee to identify projects for consideration under the program.

Decentralisation Agenda

The Decentralisation Agenda forms part of the Government’s commitment to promote economic activity in Australia’s regions and ensure every part of Australia benefits from our growing economy. Decentralisation of Government jobs outside of Canberra, central Sydney and Melbourne will benefit regional communities through the creation of local jobs, local economic diversification, and stimulation of regional economic growth. In the long term, it can also help improve government service delivery through closer proximity to citizens and stakeholders, and has the potential to provide long-term operational cost savings.

Since 2013, the Government has implemented a number of decentralisation initiatives including:

  • moving the Australia Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) to Armidale
  • the creation of several hundred jobs in Gosford, NSW by the Australian Tax Office
  • the generation of 250 call centre jobs in Adelaide by Datacom Connect for the Department of Home Affairs
  • the establishment of Agrifutures in Wagga Wagga, NSW
  • the proposed establishment of the Regional Investment Corporation in Orange, NSW
  • the establishment of offices for Grains Research and Development Corporate (GRDC) in Toowoomba, Dubbo, Adelaide and Perth.
  • the establishment of WSA Co in Liverpool
  • headquartering the National Disability Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguards Commission in Western Sydney.

The Government is building on these recent successes in its Decentralisation Agenda by announcing the relocation of functions from six more Australian Government entities that will move to locations outside of Canberra, central Sydney and Melbourne. This includes:

  • relocation of Department of Human Services staff from Sydney CBD to Parramatta
  • moving positions from the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) from Canberra to Darwin
  • moving positions to be moved from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Indigenous Affairs Group Regional Network Melbourne CBD office to Shepparton, complementing the existing positions moving from the same Group’s Sydney CBD Office to Parramatta
  • the Unique Student Identifier Register to move from Canberra to Adelaide
  • the Office of the National Rural Health Commissioner to be located in Adelaide and, importantly,
  • positions to be decentralised from the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, involving three positions for the Indian Ocean Territories and nine positions for the Inland Rail unit.

The Government remains resolute in its commitment to delivering the Decentralisation Agenda. The 2018-19 Budget marks an important next step for the ongoing roll-out of this Agenda.

Regional Australia Institute

The Australian Government will provide $1.2 million over four years to the Regional Australia Institute for the delivery of a national program of inquiry into issues affecting regional Australia.

The national program of inquiry will contribute to an informed public debate about issues that affect regional Australia, and provide advice for the development of Australian Government and state regional policy.

Norfolk Island—Next Phase Reforms

The Australian Government is increasing its contribution to the wellbeing of people living on Norfolk Island through a significant package for new services, community programs, and infrastructure development projects.

Over the forward estimates, the Australian Government will allocate an additional $38.7 million for the expansion of existing services and the delivery of new services on Norfolk Island. Measures announced will also increase funding to the Norfolk Island Regional Council, and secure the future of world heritage and community infrastructure assets as well as provide a welcome boost to the local economy.

The Australian Government will continue to focus on improving service delivery to this remote community.

Indian Ocean Territories—Essential Infrastructure Upgrades

The Australian Government is supporting the external territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands with the allocation of an additional $32.0 million over three financial years for investment in essential infrastructure. These funds will support economic activity on Christmas Island through the replacement of the Flying Fish Cove port wharf and moorings, and strengthen asset management more broadly through the development of strategic asset management plans for infrastructure in both territories.

Infrastructure is critical in supporting Australia’s strategic capability in the Indian Ocean maritime region, and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the local communities.

Indian Ocean Territories—Underwriting of Air Services

The Australian Government continues to support air services arrangements for the external territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, with a focus on placing these on as commercial a setting as possible. The Australian Government is allocating $19.6 million over the forward estimates to continue to underwrite air services to the territories—home to approximately 2,150 Australian citizens and residents.

The Indian Ocean Territories are some of the Australia’s most remote and isolated communities. This measure will provide essential connectivity between the islands and the mainland. This funding ensures that territory communities have access to the basic services enjoyed by all Australians, as well as supporting business opportunities, tourism and vital social and cultural connections with mainland Australia.

Current Initiatives

Infrastructure Investment Program

Current Infrastructure Investment Program projects and sub-programs are delivering significant benefits to individuals, local communities and the national economy, including through major upgrades to the Pacific Highway in New South Wales, Bruce Highway in Queensland, the North South Corridor in South Australia and Midland highway in Tasmania.

Roads to Recovery Program

The Roads to Recovery Program will deliver funding of around $4.8 billion from 2013‑14 to 2021-22 to local councils for road works chosen by the councils, and to states and territories for roads in areas where there are no councils. Each funding recipient has a set allocation of funding over the life of the program.

In the 2016 Budget, the Australian Government committed to an extension of the Roads to Recovery Program, with a further $50.0 million per annum from 2019-20 onwards to support construction and maintenance of local roads. The annual base funding for the program will increase to $400.0 million from 2019‑20 and, of this, around $300.0 million will be provided to local councils in rural and regional areas.

Black Spot Program

Projects under the national Black Spot Program will receive $744.5 million from 2013‑14 to 2021-22 to help make roads safer for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Each state and territory receives a share of the total funding, based on crash data and population.

Black Spot projects will continue to receive $60.0 million a year from 2021‑22 for road safety works such as roundabouts, crash barriers and street lights at places where serious crashes have occurred or where serious crashes are likely. The Australian Government will provide $275 million to the Program from 2018-19 to 2021-22.

More than 60 per cent of road deaths and a significant proportion of serious injuries occur outside metropolitan areas. In line with national road safety policy objectives, approximately 50 per cent of Black Spot funds in each state (other than Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory) are reserved for projects in non-metropolitan areas.

Bridges Renewal Program

The Bridges Renewal Program will receive $480.0 million from 2015-16 to 2021-22 to provide funding for upgrades and repairs to bridges that enhance access for local communities and facilitate vehicle access to enhance the local economy. Building on the 2016 Federal Budget investment, the Australian Government extended the Bridges Renewal Program with base funding of $60 million per year from 2021-22 onwards. The Australian Government will provide $345 million to the Program from 2018-19 to 2021-22.

Since 2015‑16, the Bridges Renewal Program has funded 385 projects over three rounds.

Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program

The Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program will receive $368.0 million from 2013‑14 to 2021‑22, to provide funding to infrastructure projects that improve productivity and safety outcomes of heavy vehicle operations across Australia. In the 2016 Federal Budget the Australian Government extended the Program with base funding of $40 million per year from 2021-22 onwards. The Australian Government will provide $237 million to the Program from 2018-19 to 2021-22.

The Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program funds road infrastructure that contributes to the safety and productivity of heavy vehicle operations across Australia delivering benefits to all road users.

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

Regional Roads Productivity Package (Northern Territory)

The Australian Government is investing $90.0 million from 2013‑14 to 2018‑19 towards the $106.5 million package. Works include replacing bridges on the Roper Highway, improving flood immunity on Port Keats Road, sealing sections of the Santa Teresa Road, constructing a new bridge over Rocky Bottom Creek on Central Arnhem Road, strengthening, widening and sealing sections of the Buntine Highway, and installing gravel on sections of the Arnhem Link Road.

Northern Territory Roads Package

The Australian Government is solely funding a $77.0 million package of works from 2014‑15 to 2018‑19 for the strengthening and widening of road pavements, flood immunity improvements, and fatigue management measures such as upgrading rest areas and intersection improvements. Roads being upgraded under the Northern Territory Roads Package include the Stuart, Victoria and Barkly Highways.

Developing Northern Australia—Improving Northern Cattle Supply Chains (Northern Australia Beef Roads Program)

The Australian Government has committed $100.0 million towards the Northern Australia Beef Roads Program to improve the productivity and resilience of the cattle industry in Northern Australia. Funding will be used for road infrastructure upgrades, with contributions also being provided by the three northern jurisdictions and local governments, for projects which aim to reduce costs to the Northern Australia cattle industry.

Opportunities to improve productivity were modelled using state‑of‑the art transport logistics modelling developed by CSIRO, (referred to as the ‘TraNSIT’ model). Successful projects to be funded under the program were announced in late 2016 and construction on projects is commencing throughout 2018.

The Australian Government is also working with jurisdictions to maximise Indigenous employment and supplier use opportunities for all Northern Australia road projects funded under both the Northern Australia Roads and Beef Roads Programs.

Northern Australia Roads Program

The Australian Government has committed $600.0 million for the Northern Australia Roads Program for priority road projects in northern Australia.

Roads identified in an audit of northern Australian infrastructure by Infrastructure Australia, along with other roads identified as priorities by the states and territories, such as those connecting communities, or regional towns to ports, were considered for funding, with successful projects announced throughout 2016.

Works will include upgrades, as well as safety and productivity improvements, such as widening, overtaking lanes, and pavement renewal. Construction on some projects commenced in mid‑2017, with further projects commencing construction throughout 2018.

National Highway Upgrade Program

The Australian Government is investing $225.8 million from 2014‑15 to 2020-21 under the National Highway Upgrade Program.

The National Highway Upgrade Program provides funding for improvements to Australia’s key national highway networks such as widening shoulders, installing wire rope barriers, overtaking lanes, turning lanes, bridges, and improving pavement on highways around Australia.

Victorian Infrastructure Package

The Australian and Victorian Governments are each contributing $345.0 million towards the $690.0 million Rural and Regional Roads package to improve safety and increase productivity across regional Victoria. More than 40 key road projects are receiving funding, including a new crossing of the Murray River between Echuca and Moama and targeted road upgrades in the Green Triangle.

The $440.0 million Murray Basin Freight Rail project is funded under the Victorian Infrastructure Package. The project aims to better connect primary producers to the State’s major ports, reduce transportation costs by allowing larger trains to move more product with each trip, and boost export opportunities. Upgrades to 1,000 kilometres of freight rail infrastructure across the Murray Basin will be delivered through the project.

Great Ocean Road (Victoria)

An upgrade of the Great Ocean Road in south‑west Victoria will receive $50.0 million from 2014‑15 to 2017‑18 from the Australian Government towards the $100.0 million project. The upgrade will better connect villages along the south‑west coast and increase tourism at famous attractions such as the Twelve Apostles and Bells Beach. The upgrade will also improve safety and reduce travel times. The upgrade is rehabilitating existing pavement, stabilising cliff and land slip sites, strengthening bridges and improving drainage between Torquay and Allansford.

The Australian Government committed $25.0 million towards this project in 2013 and a further $25.0 million under the Rural and Regional Roads Package that forms part of the $3.0 billion Victorian Infrastructure Package. Both commitments have been matched by the Victorian Government to enable a substantial upgrade of this iconic regional road. Construction commenced in August 2014 and is expected to be completed in mid-2022.

Great Western Highway (New South Wales)

The Australian Government is contributing $200.0 million towards the $247.5 million upgrade of the Great Western Highway between Katoomba and Lithgow. The projects will improve road safety and road freight efficiency, while protecting the area’s natural environment, heritage and community amenity. The upgrade of the highway at Forty Bends and Hartley Valley, and safety upgrades between Katoomba and Mount Victoria are now complete.  A program of safety works between Mount Victoria and Lithgow is under way.

New England Highway (New South Wales)

The Australian Government is contributing $131.0 million towards $241.2 million in upgrades on sections of the New England Highway. The works include an upgrade at Bolivia Hill, construction of the Scone Bypass, planning for the Tenterfield Heavy Vehicle Bypass and construction of a roundabout at Armidale Airport. These projects will improve safety as well as increase productivity of freight movements along the New England Highway.

Pacific Highway (New South Wales)

The Australian Government is investing $5.6 billion over eight years from 2013‑14 towards the upgrade of the Pacific Highway to a four‑lane divided road between Hexham and the Queensland border. This package of projects will reduce travel times, deliver significant freight benefits and reduce crash and fatality rates while meeting the needs of the coastal communities that live along the Highway. Over 80 per cent of the final highway length has been constructed and the full upgrade is due to be completed in 2020.

Bruce Highway (Queensland)

The Australian Government’s 10 year Bruce Highway $6.7 billion upgrade package announced in 2013 is focusing on a range of specific upgrades and safety packages to the Bruce Highway agreed with the Queensland Government as part of the Infrastructure Investment Program.

The projects include major upgrades and realignments, strengthening and widening works, a range of safety and efficiency measures to target sites with poor crash histories, plus the provision of additional overtaking lanes and rest areas.

Cape York Region Package (Queensland)

The Australian Government is investing $208.4 million to facilitate upgrades to infrastructure including improved road access into Cape York from the south.

The Cape York Region Package involves upgrading and sealing priority sections of the Peninsula Developmental Road, sections of the Endeavour Valley Road and delivering community infrastructure projects to nine local government areas on the Cape.

The projects will provide benefits to the Cape York local community and industry, including the mining sector.

Outback Way (Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia)

The Australian Government has committed $100.0 million to continue upgrading the Outback Way across Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Funding between these jurisdictions was informed by an investment strategy developed by the Australian Government in consultation with the jurisdictions.

This commitment builds on the Australian Government investment of $42.0 million from 2014-15 to 2018‑19 to upgrade sections of the Outback Way, including the Great Central Road in Western Australia, the Plenty Highway and Tjukaruru Road in the Northern Territory, and the Donohue Highway and Kennedy Developmental Road in Queensland, to improve safety and access to remote areas. This is in addition to the $28.0 million in funding for projects on the Plenty Highway and Tjukaruru Road committed to under the Northern Australia Roads Program.

The works will unlock the potential benefits of the Outback Way, benefitting Indigenous and remote communities and the Australian economy, particularly in the areas of tourism, mining and freight.

Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands (South Australia)

The Australian Government is investing $85.0 million from 2015‑16 to 2018‑19 towards the $106.3 million upgrade of sections of the 210 kilometres of main access road between the Stuart Highway and Pukatja, and improving up to 21 kilometres of community roads.

This package of work will provide all weather access to airstrips in Pukatja, Umuwa, Fregon, Mimili, Indulkana, and to the Umuwa and Fregon homelands.

South Australian Regional Roads Package

The Australian Government has committed $11.0 million towards the $13.8 million South Australian Regional Roads Package to deliver vital road upgrades across the state. The upgrades will create jobs, improve safety, increase productivity and boost the regional South Australian economy. The package will see works on the Sturt Highway, Eyre Highway, Lincoln Highway and Augusta Highway.

Great Northern Highway—Muchea to Wubin Upgrade (Western Australia)

The Australian Government is investing $275.8 million from 2014‑15 to 2010‑21 towards the $344.8 million upgrade of the Great Northern Highway between Muchea and Wubin which will significantly improve freight efficiency and safety on this section of the National Network. Upgrades to this link will also contribute to the long term objective of enabling road trains to travel further south to Muchea before “breaking down” to B‑double or single trailer configurations. Road trains are currently required to “break down” at Wubin, some 220 kilometres north of Muchea.

NorthLink WA—Central and Northern Sections (Western Australia)

The Australian Government is investing $635.9 million from 2014‑15 to 2019‑20 towards the $793.7 million project to construct a new 37 kilometre highway from the intersection of the Tonkin and Reid highways in Malaga to the Great Northern Highway at Muchea.

The new route will replace the Great Northern Highway through the Swan Valley as the main road freight route from Perth to the north of Western Australia. This project will be divided into two stages: the Central Section from the Reid Highway to Ellenbrook and the Northern Section from Ellenbrook to Muchea.

Midland Highway (Tasmania)

The Australian Government is investing $400.0 million from 2014‑15 to 2023‑24 towards the $500.0 million upgrade of the Midland Highway. The project will improve connectivity and road safety on this key north‑south corridor in Tasmania, and raise the standard of the full length of the highway to a minimum three star Australian Road Assessment Program safety rating.

The highway is the major route between Tasmania’s two largest cities, Hobart and Launceston, and the key freight route between Hobart and the northern ports. To date, 20 projects have been developed over the length of the highway that are in planning, under construction or have been completed, with more currently being developed as part of the forward plan to 2023-24.


The Australian Government will continue to support Keys2drive with a funding commitment of $16.0 million over 4 years from 2017-18. The program delivers a free lesson to learner drivers and their parent or mentor and will include a number of enhancements to expand uptake in regional areas.

Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail

The Australian Government has committed $9.3 billion in equity and grant funding for the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to deliver the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project. The ARTC will also enter into a Public Private Partnership to deliver the most complex section—Gowrie to Kagaru.

Spanning three states and 1,700 km, Inland Rail will be a nationally significant civil engineering project. The majority of the construction and capital expenditure will occur in regional areas particularly in south‑east Queensland and north‑west New South Wales.

In addition to 500 km of new rail track and the upgrade of 1,200 km of the existing rail corridor, the project will involve over 8 km of tunnelling in southern Queensland through the Toowoomba Range, which will be among Australia’s largest tunnel projects.

Inland Rail will deliver improved access to and from regional markets, reduced costs for business, improved linkages within the national freight network, improved reliability, certainty and capacity and better road safety for the community.

The Australian Government is committed to maximising the benefits of Inland Rail for industry and local communities during construction and operations. Regional Offices at Wodonga, Dubbo and Toowoomba have been established to work with stakeholders to maximise local procurement and employment opportunities arising from construction as well as preparing industries and communities to take advantage of the opportunities arising from the operation of Inland Rail. These offices will support the Australian Government’s commitment to engage with regional communities through its Decentralisation Agenda.

Construction on Inland Rail will commence in mid‑2018 in New South Wales. Around 16,000 direct and indirect jobs will be supported during the construction.

Regional Rail in Victoria

The Australian Government is committed to the development of regional Victorian communities and is investing in transport projects that connect people to jobs and opportunities, and provide families and businesses with affordable options for where to live and invest.

In June 2017, the Australian Government agreed the Regional Rail Package, committing $1.5 billion towards the $1.7 billion total to improve passenger rail infrastructure across regional Victoria. This investment will upgrade the Ballarat, Geelong, Gippsland, North East, Bendigo and Echuca, and Warrnambool rail lines to improve the frequency and reliability of passenger rail services across the state. In addition, it will deliver a study that will consider ways to improve rail services and options to standardise the Shepparton Rail Line to support economic productivity and efficiency by connecting people with jobs, education, health facilities, markets and services in Melbourne.

Tasmanian Freight Rail Revitalisation

The Freight Rail Revitalisation program will raise the quality of the major lines on the Tasmanian rail network through selective re‑sleepering and track replacement works, along with level crossing and bridge upgrades. The program will reduce the operational costs of freight movements by providing additional rail capacity, improved reliability and reduced transit times. These upgrades will support the economic viability of high‑tonnage businesses in regional Tasmania, such as those in the cement and paper industries that are reliant on efficient transportation to the port to compete in international and interstate trade and commerce.

The Australian and Tasmanian Governments are each contributing $59.8 million to Tranche One, which is expected to be complete in mid-2019, and a further $59.8 million each to Tranche Two, which is expected to commence in mid-2019, for a total program of $239.2 million.

Faster Rail Connecting Capital Cities and Orbital Regional Centres

The Australian Government is focussed on improving the use of rail transport to ease the pressures within Australia’s largest cities, and provide important links to regional centres. It is seeking to improve opportunities for regional centres while mitigating population growth pressures (including congestion, housing supply and affordability, and job accessibility) on our major capital cities.

From 2017-18, the Australian Government is providing $20.0 million in funding to develop three business cases for proposals to improve passenger rail services between our big cities and nearby regional centres through faster and higher speed services. The business cases include:

  • the NSW Government proposal for upgrades between Sydney and Newcastle
  • Consolidated Land and Rail Australia’s (CLARA) proposal for faster rail between Melbourne and greater Greater Shepparton
  • North Coast Connect’s proposal for faster rail between Brisbane and Nambour/Sunshine Coast.

Adelaide to Tarcoola Re-Railing Upgrade Acceleration (South Australia)

The Australian Government has committed to fully funding up to $252.0 million in equity over three years from 2016-17 to the Australian Rail Track Corporation for the delivery of the Adelaide‑Tarcoola Rail Upgrade Acceleration project. The Adelaide‑Tarcoola section of track forms part of the Melbourne to Perth corridor and is approaching the end of its asset life with the majority of the rail between 45 and 60 years old. Production of steel rail and early preparation works are well underway with over half the rail now delivered to site. Installation of the stronger 60 kg/m rail for the upgrade of this section commenced in March 2018.

The project will bring forward an order for approximately 73,000 tonnes of steel from Arrium Steel over the next three years and create up to 130 direct and indirect jobs over the life of the project, as well as other local jobs in the region.

Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme

The Australian Government aims to reduce the cost of seagoing travel between Tasmania and mainland Australia by providing a rebate for the transportation of an eligible passenger vehicle across the Bass Strait.  The rebate is provided to the driver of an eligible passenger vehicle in the form of a reduced fare charged by a Bass Strait shipping service operator, for example TT-Line.  It assists with the cost associated with the transportation of eligible passenger vehicles interstate across the Bass Strait.

In 2018-19, the Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme is forecast to provide $49.8 million in rebates.

Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme

The Australian Government supports the Tasmanian economy and regional Australia by assisting with the cost of transporting freight across the Bass Strait. The Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme helps address the sea freight cost disadvantage incurred by the shippers of eligible non-bulk goods moved by sea between the mainland of Australia and Tasmania, King Island and the main island of Tasmania, and the Furneaux Group of Islands and the main island of Tasmania. This assistance is provided because of Tasmania’s geographical location and because, unlike shippers on the mainland of Australia, shippers on these islands do not have access to a network of road and rail transport.

On 1 January 2016, the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme was expanded to provide assistance to eligible goods leaving Tasmania that are being trans‑shipped via mainland Australia.

In 2018‑19, the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme is forecast to provide $172.6 million in assistance to eligible shippers.

Regional Aviation Access Program

Through the Regional Aviation Access Program, the Australian Government provides targeted support for aerodrome infrastructure (Remote Airstrip Upgrade component) and air services to remote areas (Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme component) where they are not commercially viable.

The Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme component subsidises weekly flights to ensure residents of 266 remote communities have access to regional service centres. $53.1 million is allocated to the Scheme over the four years from 2018-19.

Payment Scheme for Airservices Australia’s En Route Charges

The Airservices Australia En Route Charges Payment Scheme supports regional commercial airlines operating low volume, commercially vulnerable routes as well as aeromedical providers flying to regional and remote communities. The Scheme offers a rebate against the Airservices Australia En Route Charge for eligible flights, with an additional incentive to encourage new regional commercial passenger routes.

The 2018-19 Budget continued the Scheme’s funding of $8 million over the four years to 2021-22 with $2 million allocated per annum.

Implementing the Smart Cities Plan

On 29 April 2016, the Australian Government launched its Smart Cities Plan. The Smart Cities Plan seeks to improve the productivity, liveability and accessibility of Australian cities and urban centres, helping to build an agile, innovative and prosperous nation. The Plan provides a framework for cities policy at the federal level and guides action across portfolios to deliver better outcomes for our cities and the people who live in them.

City Deals will be the primary mechanism for delivery of the Smart Cities Plan. City Deals are a long-term partnership between the three levels of government and the community focussed on aligning planning, investment and governance to accelerate growth and job creation, stimulate urban renewal and drive economic reforms.

City Deals are already up and running in Townsville, Launceston and Western Sydney. A commitment to develop City Deals in Geelong, Hobart, Darwin and Perth will continue to drive jobs, economic growth and liveability in key urban centres and their regions.

A focus of the City Deals in regional cities has been to coordinate efforts across governments to support urban renewal, stimulate industry and employment opportunities and improve liveability.

Townsville City Deal

The Australian Government, Queensland Government and Townsville City Council agreed the Townsville City Deal on 9 December 2016. The City Deal is a long‑term plan to secure the economic success of Townsville by bringing all relevant policy, program and funding levers together to achieve a shared vision for Townsville as an economic gateway to northern Australia, and a lifestyle-rich city for residents and visitors alike.

Under the Townsville City Deal, the Australian Government has committed $250.0 million to drive investment, jobs growth, urban renewal, governance reform and long term sustainability through the collaborative partnership across three levels of government. Initiatives under the City Deal include the development of the North Queensland Stadium, the establishment of a Townsville Development Corporation, the Townsville Industrial Development Board and the intergovernmental water taskforce.

Launceston City Deal

The Australian Government, the Tasmanian Government and the City of Launceston agreed the Launceston City Deal on 20 April 2017. The Launceston City Deal is a commitment between governments to deliver a collective program of planning, reform and investment aimed at building on the region’s natural advantages to improve the lives of local residents.

Through the Launceston City Deal the Australian Government has committed a total of $141.0 million to stimulate growth and create a vibrant, liveable city. Initiatives under the City Deal include the relocation of the University of Tasmania’s Launceston campus, the Launceston City Heart project to rejuvenate the central business district, the delivery of a National Institute for Forest Products Innovation Hub and support from the National Landcare Program for management actions to increase the health of and reduce pollution in the Tamar Estuary.

In the course of the first year of implementing the city Deal, the Australian Government has announced an additional $54.33 million contribution to the growth of Launceston, including to improve the health of the Tamar, develop new facilities at Youngtown Barracks to accommodate reservists in the Defence Force moving from Paterson Barracks and to develop a business case for a new defence Innovation and Design Precinct.

Western Sydney City Deal

The Australian and New South Wales Governments, together with eight local governments of Western Sydney, signed the Western Sydney City Deal on 4 March 2018. The City Deal is a 20-year agreement between the three levels of government to deliver jobs, rail and investment for the people of Western Sydney. 

The Australian Government has committed $125 million in funding to the Western Sydney City Deal. Initiatives under the City Deal include an Aerotropolis employment precinct with jobs in knowledge-intensive industries, a North-South Rail Link from St Marys to the Badgerys Creek Aerotropolis via the Western Sydney Airport, a Western Parkland City Liveability Program to deliver community facilities, and a new planning regime for Western Sydney to cut development costs and boost housing supply.

The City Deal builds on the Australian Government’s $5.3 billion equity investment in the Western Sydney Airport and $2.9 billion towards the $3.6 billion Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan. This funding is part of a much larger contribution to the region, including investment in rail, development of government land, and the establishment of new government offices and services in the region.

Smart Cities and Suburbs Program

The $50.0 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program is a key initiative under the Government’s Smart Cities Plan to support the delivery of innovative smart city projects that improve the liveability, productivity and sustainability of cities and regional towns across Australia.

Successful Round One projects were announced on 17 November 2017 with 49 projects from all states and territories sharing in $28.3 million of Australian Government funding, leaving up to $21.7 million available for a second round. Of the funded projects, 40 per cent are located in regional cities. Successful projects are being co-funded by partners including local governments, industry, research organisations and the private sector.

Applications for round two of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program opened on 2 May 2018 and will close on 2 July 2018. Successful projects will be announced later this year following an assessment process.

National Water Infrastructure Development Fund and Loan Facility

The Australian Government’s $2.6 billion commitment to build the water infrastructure of the future is being realised through the $580.0 million National Water Infrastructure Development Fund (Fund) and the $2 billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility (Loan Facility). Through these initiatives, the Australian Government will co‑invest with state and territory governments in the construction of water infrastructure that will provide secure and affordable water to support the growth of regional economies and communities across Australia.

Through the Fund and the Loan Facility, the Australian Government has committed:

  • $59.5 million for 39 water infrastructure feasibility studies, including $40.5 million for 16 studies in northern Australia, to assess available water resources and identify and fast track the assessment of the feasibility of new dams, pipeline and managed aquifer recharge projects
  • $554.0 million in capital to assist state and territory governments construct new water infrastructure, including Rookwood Weir in Queensland ($176.1 million), Dungowan Dam in New South Wales ($75.0 million), the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme ($45.6 million), McLaren Vale water storage ($2.5 million) in South Australia, modernisation of the Macalister Irrigation District in Victoria ($20.0 million), South West Loddon pipeline in Victoria ($20.0 million), Scottsdale Irrigation Scheme in Tasmania ($25.3 million),and the Myalup-Wellington Project in Western Australia ($190.0 million including $50.0 million through the Loan Facility).

The $2.0 billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility is available to assist state and territory governments to fund the construction of major water infrastructure projects. The assessment and contract management of water infrastructure loans will be undertaken by the Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) from 1 July 2018.

Regional Jobs and Investment Packages

The Australian Government is rolling out funding under the $222.3 million Regional Jobs and Investment Packages over three years from 2017‑18. This program is helping to diversify regional economies, stimulate economic growth and deliver sustainable employment in 10 pilot regions through funding more than 220 projects.

Regional Growth Fund

The Australian Government has launched the Regional Growth Fund (RGF), which is providing $272.2 million over four years from 2018-19, for regional infrastructure projects that will unlock economic opportunities across the regions. The RGF provides grants of $10.0 million or more for major transformational projects. These projects will support long-term economic growth and create jobs in regions, including those undergoing structural adjustment. The RGF is expected to leverage investment from the private sector, not-for-profit organisations and other levels of government.

On 2 March 2018, the Australian Government released the program guidelines and sought initial applications as part of a two-stage process. Applications closed on 27 April 2018 and successful applicants will be asked to bring forward a full business case in the second stage.

National Stronger Regions Fund

The Australian Government has conducted three funding rounds of the National Stronger Regions Fund and is investing more than $613.0 million, over five years from 2015-16, in infrastructure projects across Australia. These projects will deliver economic benefits and address disadvantage, with most projects located in regional areas across Australia.

Community Development Grants Programme

The Community Development Grants Programme (CDG) provides funding for critical projects where the Australian Government has identified the need for new or upgraded facilities. Projects range from new sporting facilities, to upgrading community centres and small-scale infrastructure projects.

CDG projects contribute to local economies, create jobs and boost the confidence within a region. To date, funding of more than $996 million has been committed to more than 788 projects, including more than 450 projects from the 2016 Federal Election.

Drought Communities Programme

The Drought Communities Programme is designed to provide employment for people whose work opportunities have been affected by drought in eligible local government areas. The Australian Government has committed $34.5 million over four years from 2015-16.

Funding is targeted at local infrastructure projects that offer the greatest potential to stimulate local community spending, use local resources, and provide a long lasting benefit to communities and the agricultural industries on which they depend. Eligible local government areas receive funding of up to $1.5 million to support projects. Projects must be completed by 30 June 2019.

Declared councils eligible to receive Drought Communities Programme funding are: Balonne, Barcaldine, Barcoo, Blackall Tambo, Boulia, Bulloo, Burke, Carpentaria, Diamantina, Flinders, Longreach, McKinlay, Murweh, Paroo, Quilpie, Richmond and Winton in Queensland; Brewarrina, Coonamble and Walgett in New South Wales; and Buloke, West Wimmera and Yarriambiack in Victoria.

Regional Development Australia Committees

The Regional Development Australia Committees program provides a network of 52 committees of community leaders, working to strengthen Australia’s regions and build stronger communities. They work with all levels of government, business, industry, educational institutions and community groups to attract investment to their regions, create jobs and drive innovation and economic development. The program also funds Regional Investment Officers who are located in the Indian Ocean Territories, on Norfolk Island and in the Jervis Bay Territory.

The Australian Government is continuing the Regional Development Australia Committees program, providing $75.3 million for the period 2018‑19 to 2021‑22. A key task for Regional Development Australia Committees is to connect businesses with industry sectors, international trade partners, financial markets, regional entrepreneurs and business leaders to attract new investment to their regions and create local jobs.

Local Government Financial Assistance Grant

The Local Government Financial Assistance Grant program established under the Local Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995 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 $11.6 billion to local government over the period 2017‑18 to 2021‑22.

The Australian Government will make an early payment during the 2017-18 financial year of 50 percent of the 2018-19 Financial Assistance Grant funding.  This cash injection of more than $1.2 billion will give councils the opportunity to start work immediately on new projects and to benefit from additional interest on cash in the bank.

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.

Additionally, the Australian Government is providing supplementary funding to South Australia for local roads. South Australia will receive $20.0 million for this purpose in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Indian Ocean Territories

The Australian Government continues to support the communities of Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands through the provision of essential services and funding for the operation of major infrastructure. Activities include provision of healthcare, education, policing, and ports and airports management. In 2017-18 the Australian Government provided $115.4 million in administered funding and $8.2 million in capital funding in support of services to the Indian Ocean Territories. The Australian Government further provided funding for various port projects, as well as airport and runway projects, and stormwater management works on Christmas Island.

The Australian Government is funding the development of a strategic plan for Christmas Island to support economic and community development.  Funding is also being provided for the development of a Five Year Strategic Plan for the Indian Ocean Territories Health Service, which will ensure the delivery of targeted, high quality and cost effective health services to local communities.

Norfolk Island

Since passing legislation which extended Commonwealth laws to Norfolk Island from 1 July 2016, the Australian Government has continued to invest in improvements to service delivery for the Norfolk Island community.

In 2017-18 the Australian Government has provided $32.7 million in funding for services to Norfolk Island. The Australian Government has further invested $16.4 million from 2015-16 to 2017-18 for the upgrade of Cascade Pier which will facilitate greater access to Norfolk Island by cruise ships and improve cargo transfers. In addition, funding of approximately $7.3 million from 2015-16 to 2017-18 is providing capital works upgrades at Norfolk Island Central School and Norfolk Island Health and Residential Aged Care Service.

Jervis Bay

The Australian Government supports the community of the Jervis Bay Territory by funding the provision of state-level and local government type services. In 2017-18 the Australian Government provided $6.8 million in funding for service delivery. State-level services, such as education, justice and welfare are delivered by the Australian Capital Territory Government under a service delivery arrangement.

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