RDAs crucial to national inquiry into regional development
Posted June 23, 2017
Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (14:21): My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. Minister, in 2016, the government commissioned an independent review of the Regional Development Australia program to make recommendations on the future scope, structure and delivery model of RDAs. I understand that the government received the final report of the independent reviewer, the Hon. Warwick Smith, in January. Minister, RDAs have the ability to play a crucial part in the inquiry into regional development and decentralisation which has been undertaken by the House of Representatives, but to do this they need certainty about their future. Minister, can you tell the House when the government will release this report, provide certainty to the RDAs and allow them to continue to play an active role in forming the regional agenda? (Time expired)
Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (14:22): I thank the member for her interest and her ongoing involvement in regional development. As she referred to, the independent review of the RDA program has been submitted to the minister, and the government is considering its response. I had the opportunity this week, as I am sure the member has had—as there have been many councils, mayors and RDAs in the parliament this week for the ALGA conference—and it is important that we have the opportunity, to listen to those local communities' ideas. The minister is considering the report. As part of the government's ongoing commitment to regional growth, it is important that we liaise with local communities about regional opportunities.
The government is committed to regional Australia. There are many ways that we can work with our local communities to invest in their future. On this side of the House we do believe in the future of regional Australia; I am sure the member for Indi does as well. We are working to build a better, stronger and safer regional Australia where everyone can get ahead. You would have seen programs announced in the most recent budget which go directly to that. We are delivering a record $75 billion infrastructure investment program, for projects right around regional Australia, which will assist with the regional development and decentralisation committee's challenge that the member referred to.
I look at projects like the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail, which will go through the member's own electorate, but, of course, is being championed by the Deputy Prime Minister himself, the member for Groom, the member for Riverina, the member for Maranoa—and the member for Parkes has raised it once or twice or a thousand times as well. The Pacific Highway duplication is another project which has been well received throughout regional Australia, by the member for Lyne, the member for Page and the member for Cowper. We have seen $6.7 billion for the Bruce Highway program, which has been very well received throughout regional Australia.
Ms McGowan: Mr Speaker, a point of order on relevance to the question: the question was, 'When will the report be released?'
The SPEAKER: The member for Indi does make a valid point of order, inasmuch as that was one question. There were a couple of questions in her 45-second question, but I do direct the minister to that part of it.
Mr CHESTER: The member did refer to decentralisation and regional development opportunities and the role of the RDAs in that. I acknowledge that the minister has received the report, and the government is considering its response as we speak. She did refer to opportunities for regional growth in her own electorate. There are commitments being made by the Turnbull-Joyce government, commitments that have seen the Great Alpine Road upgrades progressing, the Kiewa Valley Highway upgrade, and the North East railway line receiving $100 million. The member for Indi's local council has received $14.5 million through Roads to Recovery, because we have committed to those programs, like Roads to Recovery, black spots, bridges renewal, and mobile phone blackspots—all these programs which are delivering for regional committees. So I say to the member for Indi: get on board. Get on board this team. This is a team that stands up for regional Australia: the Turnbull-Joyce team actually stands up for regional Australia. Do not be like the Leader of the Opposition, who cannot decide whether he barracks for the Swans or the Magpies; you have got to pick a team! The member for Kooyong picked a team; he picked the Blues. You have to pick a team, member for Indi. This Turnbull-Joyce team is delivering for regional Australia and you should get on board.
Click here to view on Hansard.