Helping regional Australia on the road to recovery
URGENT action to protect farmers and bush towns is at the heart of a 13-point plan presented to state and federal governments on the back of The Daily Telegraph's Bush Summit.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Labor leader Anthony Albanese and NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro converged on Dubbo with 350 delegates yesterday to declare their commitment to the bush.
A powerful plan to back water infrastructure, financial reform, black spot-free regions and top-quality health and education services for the bush was settled on and will be put to government with a call for urgent action.
But as farmers and industry called for expedited support, Mr Morrison and Mr Albanese will return to Canberra next week for a bruising political showdown over a $3.9 billion drought fund.
Labor confirmed yesterday it would not back the fund while it siphoned its money from the Building Australia Fund - a national infrastructure pool - with Mr Albanese saying the drought merited its own financial contributions.
The 13-point plan, which will be put to the leaders, is not exhaustive but a starting point, beginning with a call to prioritise new water infrastructure.
It also calls for:
● A legislated right to farm;
● Streamlining state and federal job creation projects;
● Lifting the payroll tax threshold to $1m for regional businesses;
● Tax incentives for debt payment;
● A rural advisory panel set up by the end of August;
● Decentralisation options;
● More attractive working visa options in the bush;
● Communication black spot-free by 2025;
● A call for Destination NSW to back a dedicated Visit the Bush tourism campaign; and
● Minimum standards for health and education in country towns.
The plan comes ahead of the torrid stoush expected when Mr Morrison brings legislation for his $3.9 billion droughtproof fund back to the parliament next week.
Mr Albanese confirmed in Dubbo yesterday that he would not support the fund while it was taking its money from the Building Australia Fund.
But, in a clear bid to wedge Mr Morrison, the Opposition Leader said he would support "any" amount of funding for drought if the government used the appropriate money.
Mr Morrison said he was happy to seek support of the crossbench for the plan, just as he had with the tax cuts policy.
He said none of the government's $100 billion infrastructure pipeline would be impacted by taking money from the Building Australia Fund.
"There is not one piece of pavement, there is not one dam, there is not one railway sleeper that is being taken away from our infrastructure program by going ahead with the Future Drought Fund," he said.
Crossbenchers were yesterday undecided if they would vote for the package.