The federal budget has just been announced, affecting Australians across the country. Depending on your needs, lifestyle, and other factors, there may be parts of the budget that greatly influence your life, and others that do not. How will this year’s budget impact regional Australians? We take a look at the facts.
Growth in Infrastructure
There is a significant amount of money in this budget allocated to infrastructure development. The money is geared towards improving both the safety and the quality of roads, rail lines, and bridges. The regional infrastructure networks emphasised include the Great Northern Highway in Western Australia, connections between the ACT and NSW, as well as regional corridors in Northern Australia and Tasmania. $24.5 billion has been allotted to join an existing $75 billion 10-year-rolling fund for infrastructure efforts.Within this budget, the following can be found:
59.8m for the Tasmanian freight rail revitalisation
$280m for the Northern Territory including the Central Arnhem road upgrade ($180m) and the Buntine highway upgrade ($100m)
Air transport is getting a share of the funding. The Remote Airstrip Upgrade program is to be extended, with plans to provide $28.3 million from 2018–19 to 2021–22. Upgrades to safety and access for remote airstrips is important for regional Australians, as these enable access to fresh food, mail services, and even important healthcare opportunities. In the same vein, increased funding (to the tune of $84 million) has been revealed for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, which plays a vital role in regional and rural communities.
The infrastructure budget is good news for regional Australia, as the proposed works will better connect industry and communities in rural and regional places. This is likely to be positive in both a commercial and a personal sense.
Stronger Rural Health
The budget includes the Government’s $83.3 million Stronger Rural Health Strategy, designed to do exactly what its name suggests. The goal is to increase access to services for those in regional and rural areas, and to assist medical students to get their education and training more easily in these areas. The 5-year strategy aims to place more doctors and nurses in regional Australia and train 100 additional GPs.
Overall, this budget indicates that older Australians are set to benefit with more support across the board. $40 million is earmarked for investment in regional, rural and remote aged care, and over the next 4 years, there are plans to put $1.6 billion towards helping pensioners be able to receive in-home aged care.
Jobs & Communities
The initial rounds of the Building Better Regions Fund, responsible for 250+ projects across regional Australia and roughly 26,000 new jobs, has got the go-ahead for a third round. For this purpose, $200 million has been apportioned. This program supports both community investments and infrastructure projects.
The Stronger Communities Programme is also going longer, with $22.5 million more allocated. The program provides grants to community organisations and Local Governments for projects such as community halls and aged care facilities. Grants range from $2,500-20,000.
To strengthen rural Australia, there is a move to increase opportunities for secure, high-paying jobs outside major urban areas, in particular the traditional public-service strongholds like Canberra and Sydney. Specifically, this decentralisation will take actionable steps through relocating certain government offices to regional or rural areas.
Just a few of note: the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations will move from Canberra to Darwin, and the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities Inland Rail Unit will relocate in three states---from Canberra to Toowoomba in Queensland, Dubbo in New South Wales, and Wodonga in Victoria.
Good News for Farmers
Regional Australia is home to the majority of the country’s 80,000+ agricultural businesses. Many of these businesses will enjoy the $20,000 instant asset write-off for small businesses turning over less than $10 million per year.
GPS technology is at the forefront of the budget as well, with an allocation of $260 million. Much of this investment will go toward developing a Satellite-Based Augmentation Strategy to improve the performance of positioning data. This has many practical applications for those in the agricultural industry, in particular, it relates to smart farming systems, which can deliver more productive and efficient technology for businesses. Matt Canavan, Minister for Resources stated that "growing Australia's digital economy will...benefit developed sectors such as mining, transport, construction, aviation, and agriculture.”
The Government intends to implement a National Forestry Industry Plan. $20 million over the next four years is devoted to establishing this.
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) will receive $4.7million, an investment dedicated to studying and addressing Australia's seasonal labour needs.
Biosecurity has some attention this year. In order to better screen imported food, improve pest and disease response plans, and to invest detection technology, the budget includes $101.6 million to be used over the next 4 years. $20 million of that is dedicated to helping Tasmania recover from a recent fruit fly outbreak.
With some exciting potential to be found in this budget, regional Australia is likely set for great growth over the next several years.