Mr PASIN (Barker) (17:21): The member for Eden-Monaro has come to this place and encouraged people to visit her electorate, presumably members of the government or otherwise, to listen to her community. With respect, she ought to check her diary for Friday. If she did, she would realise that the House Select Committee on Regional Australia, which I chair, is conducting an inquiry into regional Australia and is in fact travelling to Eden-Monaro on Friday. We’re not travelling there on Friday because, as the member suggests, she has asked but rather it was at my suggestion. And it’s also not because she has come into this place and suggested otherwise. To come in here and try to suggest that the people who represent the government in this place are not willing to listen to her constituents is quite wrong, and I’ve just highlighted that very fact.
Let’s talk about what we’re in screaming agreement about. We’re in screaming agreement, as I am with the member for Indi and my colleagues who represent regional Australia, about the importance of regional Australia to our nation. A strong regional Australia means a stronger Australia. I am in awe of the member for Indi’s passion for the region, as I was her predecessor. We share a lot in common. But we have to be quite clear and clear-eyed about what we are doing. I didn’t have the benefit of hearing, because I was in the House of Representatives during the member for Indi’s contribution, but to suggest as some have that, in some way, this government has turned its back on regional Australia—I can tell you that that is not true.
It’s difficult to debate this matter without reference to the events of last night. Of course, budget 2021 is a seminal point in the term of this government, but budget night is also significant in the life of any government. Just like elections shape the country, every single budget opportunity does exactly the same. I can’t speak for every member of parliament, but what I can say is that constituents in my electorate woke up this morning to news that they are seeing part of the infrastructure pipeline delivered to Barker. I know the member for Grey was here making a contribution and talking about important infrastructure in his electorate. Let me tell you about the Truro bypass. It is a bottleneck on the Sturt Highway, which is a road of strategic importance. Not $1 million for a bypass around Truro, not $16 million, but $160 million. That is nation-building infrastructure. At the same time, there is funding to undertake studies in relation to other important transformative infrastructure. Through this budget there is a litany of announcements that will support regional communities. I’m particularly interested in the instant asset write-off and the bulk-billing incentive for GPs.
I don’t think anyone in this place would be upset about the Building Better Regions Fund going for a further round, with an additional $250 million. In my electorate I’ve just been on a call to mayors and CEOs of the 17 councils. The one complaint I received about a further round of the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program was, ‘Tony, we’re not sure we’ll be able to roll out that program, because we are snowed with the amount of funding that’s coming out of Canberra right now.’ Answer: ‘Well, this funding, round 3, will operate from 1 January 2022 through to 31 June 2023.’
This is a government that is committed to regional Australia. Why? Because when you look across the chamber, the majority of people who come from regional Australia are on the government side of the benches. That’s just the reality. Try as they might, those opposite, to suggest, ‘Oh, no, there are more people from the Labor Party who represent rural, regional and remote communities’, it is not true. And I remember one of the members who does live in regional Australia who represented the community of Ballarat and, when we were dealing with the National Stronger Regions Fund, what the ANAO said about that contribution. We’re about regional Australia. We come from regional Australia. We know that a strong regional Australia makes for a strong Australia, and long may that be the case.