I certainly appreciate the opportunity to ask a question of the Deputy Prime Minister, which today will be on decentralisation, but I will preface my question with a few remarks about decentralisation.
Deputy Speaker Coulton, you would know that it is crucial that every part of Australia benefits from the economic growth that government agencies—and their jobs—can help deliver to our local communities. We in country Australia understand that. The only people who seem to complain about decentralisation are people in the big cities, who hate it—oh, and the member for Hunter; he does not like decentralisation either. We have just had a wonderful example of a new agency being decentralised, the Regional Investment Corporation, which is going to be based in the electorate of Calare. The RIC, as it is known to its many friends, was a key coalition government election commitment and is designed to improve the delivery of funds to farmers and to ensure greater national consistency in farm business loan assessments. It is going to be responsible for administering concessional loans such as drought relief and water infrastructure loans. Ultimately, the corporation will administer over $4 billion in loans. There will be 25 new jobs in the set-up stage, with 31 to be delivered in the first two years. This loan book is going to quickly grow.
You may well ask, 'What has the reaction been?' The reaction out there has been very positive, Mr Deputy Speaker. I draw your attention to the comments of Mr Reg Kidd, who is Deputy Chair of Regional Development Australia Central West. Listen and learn, Member for Hunter:
This is great news for our region and surrounding communities. It means new jobs, more career pathways for regional people and greater regional investment opportunities. It not only benefits our regional communities, but it provides the government with much stronger regional partnerships and taps in to the expertise we already have here.
That is a ringing endorsement if ever I heard one, but it gets better. This is what Fiona Simson, the head of the National Farmers Federation—herself a farmer from the Liverpool Plains—had to say about the announcement:
It just make sense for an agency charged with administering concessional loans to farmers to be based in the regions where farm businesses operate.
That is a lot of sense from Fiona Simson from the National Farmers Federation. She went on to say:
At a state and federal level, monies are made available with the best interests of farmers in mind, however the red tape involved often actually defeats its purpose. In some cases the process for accessing financial help causes more angst for farmers at a time when there is already high pressure. It just makes sense for all farm finance support to be handled by one federal agency. Certainty over when and where the RIC will be operating is welcomed. We look forward to being updated as the project progresses.
Those are commonsense, very positive comments, in contrast to the very negative output on this topic from the member for Hunter. You swan around this place in your RM Williams, but you really should be kicking them off and putting on beads and Roman sandals, because you carry on like a Green in this House, and it is very disappointing.
An honourable member interjecting—
Mr GEE: Do you know what they call the shadow minister out where we are? The shadow minister for re-centralisation. That is what they call him.
Mr Fitzgibbon interjecting—
Mr GEE: It is very disappointing that we continue to have interjections from the shadow minister for re-centralisation.
Mr Joyce interjecting—
Mr GEE: It is frustrating, as the Deputy Prime Minister said. It demeans the office you hold, member for Hunter.
An honourable member interjecting—
Mr GEE: It might be his time to shine, but he is not shining terribly brightly at the moment. I think his constituents would be appalled to know that he is selling out regional communities. It is an absolute disgrace. Deputy Prime Minister, my question to you is: why is decentralisation so important to ensuring the vibrancy and growth of rural and regional Australia? I want to thank you for the valuable work that you are doing for country Australia. It is greatly appreciated.