STEPHEN JONES MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS

SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL SERVICES, TERRITORIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT

MEMBER FOR WHITLAM

MORRISON DROPS REGIONAL ROLES FROM HIS FIRST MINISTRY

In his first address after Friday’s leadership ballot, Scott Morrison told Australians he was on their side, but it is now clear that he didn’t mean it.

The Liberal – National Coalition has snubbed regional and rural Australians by abolishing two critical positions servicing their communities:

• The Minister for Regional and Rural Health – previously held by Dr David Gillespie has been axed along with its occupant.

• The position of Minister for Regional Communications – nominally held by Deputy Nationals Leader Bridget McKenzie – has also been axed.

The poor performance of these two National MPs does justify their sacking. It does not justify axing the Ministry.

While policy challenges in these critical areas grow the Nationals and Regional Liberals are asleep at the wheel.

Not one National Party MP or Minister appears to have been aware of an NBN plan to increase regional fixed wireless broadband charges by $20 more than the equivalent fixed line service for people in the city. Labor exposed the plan and forced the Government into an embarrassing backflip.

The digital divide is actually growing right under the noses of the National Party Leadership Team with the latest Measuring Australia’s Digital Divide: Australian Digital Inclusion Index 2017 showing that the digital divide was actually growing in Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania.

The same report found “substantial differences between rural and urban areas. In 2017 digital inclusion is 7.9 points higher in capital cities (58.6) than in country areas (50.7).

There is a need for a dedicated focus on Regional Health where:

• Mortality rates are 1.3 times higher

• Levels of chronic disease are 6% higher

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has observed:

“Australians living in rural and remote areas generally experience poorer health and welfare outcomes than people living in metropolitan areas. They have higher rates of chronic disease and mortality, have poorer access to health services.”

The National and regional Liberals allowed Medicare rebate freezes which breached the Nationals election platform and threatens the viability of regional and rural medical practices.

Health outcomes are poorer, NBN complaints are greater, but the Nationals and Regional Liberals seem oblivious to this.

MONDAY, 27 AUGUST 2018