News National Budget pledge for regions hit by bushfires and coronavirus

Budget pledge for regions hit by bushfires and coronavirus

The bushfire royal commission made 80 recommendations in its final report. Photo: AAP
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Bushfire and coronavirus-ravaged parts of regional Australia will share in $100 million of Commonwealth cash over the next two years.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack will on Wednesday announce a new regional recovery fund, part of $135 million in spending to be outlined in next week’s budget.

The program will be targeted at regions suffering after drought, bushfires and the pandemic, as well as areas primed for economic diversification.

In NSW, the Snowy Mountains, Hunter-Newcastle and Parkes regions will be eligible.

Victoria’s Gippsland region is included, along with Cairns, Gladstone, Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday and the tropical north in Queensland.

All of Tasmania, South Australia’s Kangaroo Island and Western Australia’s South West are covered.

Mr McCormack said the money would be used to support recovery and growth through projects co-ordinated with other levels of governments.

“These partnerships will support existing regional plans by developing a package of targeted initiatives to deliver jobs, economic recovery and economic diversification,” the Nationals leader said.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has accused the government of not doing enough to fuel regional job creation in the aftermath of the horror summer.

“We need to have a plan as well in terms of immediate jobs for issues like land care and for looking after areas that were impacted by the bushfires,” he told Triple M radio on Tuesday.

He said none of the $200 million earmarked in for an emergency response fund flowed during the last financial year.

“That could have been spent supporting those areas and resilience, but also creating jobs,” Mr Albanese said.

Focus on jobs, Albanese says

Mr Albanese will use a major speech in Sydney on Wednesday to outline what Labor thinks next week’s budget should target.

He wants funding for roads and rail, social housing, skills shortages and Australian-made trains.

Labor also wants more investment in child care and universities.

The prime minister and treasurer have repeatedly said their fiscal strategy will focus on jobs, but Mr Albanese argues the pair have been far too light on detail.

“The budget figures will tell the cold hard truth,” he will say.

“The gap between what this government says and what it does. The chasm between announcement and action.”

Mr Albanese says the coalition must chart a clear plan for recovery on October 6.

“We’ve got to get this nation back to work. And fast,” he will say.

“Every borrowed dollar in the budget must create or sustain jobs, or skill people up for jobs.

“Any new spending is borrowed money. It can’t be wasted on mates, or rorts, or dodgy deals, or pork-barrelling.”

He will also touch on improving skills and training, recommitting to establishing an independent body called Jobs and Skills Australia if Labor wins government.

Coalition pledge includes NBN, phone projects

The deputy prime minister will outline the new measures in a speech to the Regional Australia Institute on Wednesday.

The package also includes an extra $30 million for telecommunications projects outside of national broadband network fixed-line areas.

That will make the Regional Connectivity Program worth $83 million.

A further $5 million will be spent on developing local leaders in the regions, including councillors, volunteers, members of community organisations and industries.

“These measures are all part of our economic plan for a more secure and resilient Australia, helping the regions bounce back and then thrive, to drive Australia’s economic recovery,” Mr McCormack said.