Bill Shorten needs to at least acknowledge the existence of regional Australia in his Budget Reply speech tonight if he is to establish any shred of credibility in the regions.
A close analysis of his three previous Budget Reply speeches reveals zero mentions of agriculture and nothing more than passing mentions of regional Australia.
Luke Hartsuyker, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, says Labor’s continued neglect of regional Australia and Australian agriculture is disappointing but not surprising.
“Failing to mention Agriculture once could perhaps be overlooked, but three times in a row would suggest a deliberate Labor policy to ignore Aussie farmers and the 29.3% of Australians that live outside a major city,” Mr Hartsuyker said.
“Labor has form when it comes to neglecting regional Australia. When Labor came to power in 2007, dozens of important regional development projects were scrapped without warning, and the impacts of the disastrous live export ban of 2011 are still being felt in northern Australian farming communities.
“The contrast between Labor’s neglect and the Coalition Government’s commitment to regional Australia is stark. The 2017 Budget delivers on our vision to secure more opportunities for Australian agriculture and regional communities. We are investing more than double what the previous Labor Government did to secure the future of Australian farming.
“Australian farmers did more to secure our national economic growth this past year than any other sector, and Australian agriculture is enjoying a resurgence on the back of strong support from Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and the Coalition Government.
“Every commitment we made to Australia’s farmers prior to last year’s election is locked in through this year’s Budget, and we are delivering transformative regional initiatives such as the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail and the Regional Growth Fund.
“The Nationals are delivering for Australian agriculture and regional Australia.
“Since Mr Shorten clearly hasn’t been paying attention, here’s a gentle reminder for him of some of the positive outcomes achieved by the Nationals for regional Australia and Australian farmers since coming to Government:
• Delivered and funded the Agricultural White Paper
• Launched the $500 million National Water Infrastructure Development Fund and the $2 billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility
• Secured more than $1 billion for Landcare
• Invested more than $1.8 billion in irrigation infrastructure upgrades
• Introduced the Regional Investment Corporation
• Driven 31 per cent growth in agricultural production since 2013, on the way to doubling agricultural production over the long term
• Decentralised agricultural agencies and organisations into the regions
• Delivered tax benefits to help farmers with the costs of fencing, water infrastructure, and fodder storage
• Reformed country of origin labelling
• Funded 1800km of dog fence in rural Queensland to protect the livelihoods of local sheep graziers
• Paid to upgrade more than 200 rural bridges to make it easier to get products to market
• Invested $220 million to construct 765 new mobile base stations in mobile black spots
• Signed export trade agreement to open new markets for our farmers
“The challenge for Bill Shorten and Labor is clear – demonstrate a vision for regional Australia and Australian agriculture.
“I will not be holding my breath.”