April 2, 2019 Angela Scicluna

Regional Capitals Australia Welcomes Budget Connecting the Regions

Regional Capitals Australia (RCA) has welcomed the release of the 2019 Federal Budget, which includes billions of new investment to better connect regional cities. 

RCA Chair, Cr Samantha McIntosh noted that the significant investments in roads, rail and airports will have substantial and long term benefits for regional capital cities and ensure the cities could continue to ease the squeeze felt by the major capital cities.

“We also welcome the initiatives to grow our member cities through new regional deals, more decentralisation, skilled regional visas and incentives to study at regional universities,” she said

“This investment will further ensure that our member cities have access to a larger pool of skills and diversity for economic and social growth,” Cr McIntosh said.

Investments in tonight’s budget, which include those that have been made in recent weeks are:

Planning and Growth:

Regional Deals:

  • Albury-Wodonga Deal: $3.1million to complete strategic planning for the deal; and
  • Hinkler Deal: (Hervey Bay and Bundaberg) $172 million for the deal. 

Decentralisation of Government Departments:

  • Murray Darling Basin Authority: 76 jobs across Griffith, Mildura, Murray Bridge andGoondiwindi;
  • Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities: 25 jobs will move to Orange;
  • Indigenous Business Australia: 10 jobs to their regional offices in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales;
  • Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Indigenous Affairs Group: 35 jobs to Broome, Coffs Harbour and Alice Springs; and
  • Aboriginal Hostels Limited: 40 new jobs in Brisbane, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville, Cairns, Thursday Island, Mount Isa, Darwin, Katherine, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Perth, Kalgoorlie, South Hedland, Broome and Derby. 

Connectivity:

Rail:

  • Regional rail:$2.1 billion for the Geelong to Melbourne line upgrade as well as $700 million for the South Geelong to Waurn Ponds line; and
  • Regional rail business cases: $40 million for five regional rail project business cases that connect regional cities to metropolitan capitals for connections from the Gold Coast, Wollongong, Parks (via Bathurst and Orange), Albury-Wodonga and Traralgon.

Air:

  • Regional Airports: $100 million in funding announced to upgrade runways and taxiways, maintain existing airport infrastructure and upgrade airport infrastructure to enable large passenger planes to land in more regional airports.

Roads: 

  • Pacific Highway upgrades: an additional $1 billion for bypasses, duplications, and lane widening for works across Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia;
  • Newell Highway Upgradesan additional $400 million for safety upgrades along the highway;
  • Roads to Recovery: an additional $500 million (over four years) for the construction and maintenance of local roads;
  • Roads of Strategic Importance: an additional $1 billion for road networks across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania (see attached list);
  • Road Black Spots Program: an additional $200 million (over four years) to improve high-risk regional roads; and
  • Bridges Renewal Program: an additional $100 million (over four years) to upgrade and repair bridges for freight activity.

Digital:

  • Mobile Black Spots: $160 million for rounds five and six of the program, which aims to improve mobile phone coverage; and 
  • Regional Digital Connectivity Program: $60 million for a new digital technology hub to improve digital literacy and address localised infrastructure gaps in the National Broadband Network.

Liveability 

Regional Grants:

  • Building Better Regions Fund: an additional $200 million for Round Four; and
  • Stronger Communities Fund: an additional $22.7 million for Round Five. 

Education: 

  • Universities: 4700 student scholarships of $15,000 each for students studying in regional universities. 

Health:

  • Regional doctors: $62 million in funding for a National Rural Generalist Pathway for trainee doctors; and
  • Fighting cancer: $45.5 million in funding for new regional cancer treatment centres 

Population:

  • Establishing a Centre for Population;
  • Introducing two new regional visas for skilled workers, requiring visa holders to live and work in regional Australia.

“We congratulate the Federal Government on the release of the Budget, which will make our cities more liveable, connected and productive,” said Cr McIntosh. 

“We do note that new funding was not added to the Regional Growth Fund,” she said.

“This fund best suited growing regional cities due to the $50 million grant cap, as our cities grow so do the size of our projects, so having a larger grant available was really important,” Cr McIntosh said.

“Additionally while we welcome the commitment shown to the deals announced for Albury-Wodonga and Bundaberg-Hervey Bay, our members would like a certainty for this initiative and think that a commitment to deliver 10 Regional Deals over the next four years would be the right level of investment,” she said.

“As the Hon Bill Shorten, the Hon Anthony Albanese and Stephen Jones, MP turn their attention to responding to today’s announcements we also call on them to recognise that Australia cannot succeed without strong regional capital cities,” Cr McIntosh said.

“Making sure that connected, productive and liveable regional cities are part of their vision for Australia will be key as they put their priorities to the people of Australia in their budget reply, ” said Cr McIntosh.

Contact

Angela Scicluna, Regional Capitals Australia Secretariat
P: 03 8658 5715
M: 0434 274 457
E: Secretariat@regionalcapitalsaustralia.org

About Regional Capitals Australia

Regional Capitals Australia (RCA) is a national alliance of local government councils across the nation representing Australia’s regional cities. RCA’s mission is to provide a recognised platform to champion the strategic importance and sustainable development of regional capitals around the nation. To learn more about our work visit http://regionalcapitalsaustralia.org.

Available for Interview
Cr Samantha McIntosh – Chair, Regional Capitals Australia