News Parliament

FEDERATION CHAMBER - BILLS - APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 1) 2018-2019 - CONSIDERATION IN DETAIL

I believe in the future of regional Australia. I want to see it thrive and prosper so that it continues to provide an unbeatable lifestyle for generations to come—and I know that the Deputy Prime Minister does as well. The budget this year made a huge contribution to regional Australia with the announcement of the Murray Darling Medical Schools Network, in which the Deputy Prime Minister has played a major role. The doctor shortage in country Australia and country New South Wales is well known. In some country communities you have to wait weeks or months just to see a GP, let alone a specialist. When GPs leave a community, when they retire or move towns, it is sometimes very difficult to replace them. Infrastructure was a major part of that announcement of $95 million. There will be bricks and mortar built in our country communities to train doctors in the bush for practice in the bush. I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for his work in that regard—

Mr Albanese interjecting

Mr GEE: Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask that you restore order to the House.

Mr Albanese interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr S Georganas ): Order!

Mr GEE: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. This will make a real difference to the lives of people in country communities.

We also had in the budget the extension of the Building Better Regions Fund. That was another major victory for folks in country Australia. In the electorate of Calare, the fund recently delivered a major investment in the form of funding for the second race track at Mount Panorama. The Deputy Prime Minister, as a keen motor-racing fan, will be delighted to know work is progressing and that project is underway.

As well, we have $588,000 for the new domestic violence centre and refuge in Orange, which is very welcome. At the moment, when families need refuge from domestic violence they have to leave town and go to neighbouring communities. When you have children, that is very difficult. So the Building Better Regions Fund has made a real difference to the lives of people in country communities.

Another major announcement I am extremely happy with is Roads of Strategic Importance. Roads are very dear to the hearts of country people. The tyranny of distance is the scourge of so many country communities. If we can connect our communities by building better roads we can make a real difference to the lives of country people. As I mentioned to the House yesterday, one of the key projects I am working on at the moment is a new crossing at Dixons Long Point over the Macquarie River between Orange and Mudgee. Folks have been trying to get this project up and running for 100 years and no-one has been able to do it. I am in the process of bringing all of the parties together. We have the reports done. If all governments work together we can make this happen. Roads of Strategic Importance offers communities in our area the opportunity to access greater funding for these key strategic road projects.

Another strategic road project I am interested in pursuing is the continuing upgrade of the Bells Line of Road over the Blue Mountains into Lithgow, which is the gateway to the golden west. There has been some good work carried out on the Bells Line of Road, but we need to be getting people into the central-west of New South Wales and one of the best ways of doing that is by improving our road infrastructure. So that is another important project I'm currently working on.

The Liberal-National government has been very successful in the Bridges Renewal Program in recent years. There have been a number of key infrastructure improvements in that regard in my area and I am very pleased to see that that will be continuing. The budget sees the Liberals and Nationals extending funding through the popular Roads to Recovery Program, another fund helping local government to maintain and upgrade roads. We also have the black spot funding program, which, again, has made a real difference to the lives of so many people in country Australia.

Deputy Prime Minister, could you please tell us how the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative has come about and the ways in which you envisage that regional communities, like those in Calare, will benefit from new road infrastructure?