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STEPHEN JONES MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR REGIONAL SERVICES, TERRITORIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
MEMBER FOR WHITLAM

COALITION FAILING REGIONAL AUSTRALIA

Before looking at incentives to encourage people to move to regional Australia to relieve congestion in Sydney and Melbourne, the Morrison Government must first look to deliver on existing policy promises and fix the problems caused by five years of cuts to funding and services.

The track record of the Morrison Government is that of failing to deliver on its promises to regional Australians. At the same time, it has made regional lives tougher through its cuts to the social safety. The flawed Liberal-National Party agenda is causing more harm than good and is failing to understand or address the needs of people living outside our major capitals.

The worst regional policy failures of the Morrison Government include:

  • Stripping nearly $1 billion in funding from local councils through the 3-year indexation freeze on Financial Assistance Grants that impacted on regional councils’ capacity to provide community infrastructure and services.
  • Delivering a second-rate copper NBN to regional cities when fast and reliable broadband is the number one priority for regional development.
  • Failing to deliver on the big talk around decentralisation when 18 months after the policy was announced, less than 100 jobs have been relocated and most of those just from one capital to another.
  • Failing to deliver their signature Regional Development program, the $272.2m Regional Growth Fund with stage one of applications having closed on 27 April – nearly six months ago.
  • Abandoning the Regional City Deals policy – despite huge interest.

At the same time, years of cuts to health and education services have impacted harder on regional Australians who have fewer options when it comes to accessing important basic services in regional locations.The Coalition’s track record of cuts includes:

  • Cutting more than $2.5 billion from TAFE, skills and training – essential to help address youth unemployment in regional areas.
  • A Medicare freeze that has cut more than $3 billion out of Australian health care at a time when remote Australians see a doctor at half the rate as city dwellers and a specialist at one third the rate.
  • Cutting around 2,500 permanent jobs from Centrelink – the most decentralised Commonwealth agency – with call wait times and payment processing times blowing out substantially.
  • An Aged Care waitlist of more than 121,000 older Australians waiting for home care packages.

These cuts hit hardest in regional Australia. Without a strong social safety net of basic regional services, Australians in rural areas face challenges every day to access what urban Australians take for granted.Making locations outside of Sydney and Melbourne attractive as alternate destinations to live and work depends on getting the basics right and delivering a coherent suite of policies.

Our regional cities are keen to grow and meet the challenges of the future through sustainable economic development. However, they cannot do this on empty promises, failed policy and ongoing cuts to regional services.

WEDNESDAY, 10 OCTOBER 2018