Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (12:39): The seat of Grey was formed in 1903 and, despite the fact that I am only the third Liberal to represent that seat, this is the 28th year that it will have been in Liberal hands and I’m proud of that outcome. As such, it is considered a safe seat, even though there are times when even safe seats are pushed to the limit and certainly that was the case in 2016. But in any case, as I work my way around the electorate and talk to people, from time to time it is put to me that ‘we would be better off voting for the Labor party and the independents so the seat became a swinging seat and we would get more attention, more money from the government, more support’. I would like to take that to task given that we are dealing with the appropriations bill.
I have been keeping a running check on the grants and programs that are coming into Grey. I hope 15 minutes is long enough but I’m going to have a go at taking you through them. The No. 1 issue for people who live in a seat like Grey, which is not as big as Lingiari—I must say to the good member who has just sat down—but bigger than New South Wales in any case, is roads infrastructure. I will start on roads. There’s just on $900 million in current works underway or in the pipeline coming from the Commonwealth government on major projects in the seat of Grey. We have $160 million for the duplication of the Joy Baluch Bridge in Port Augusta. There’s $80 million going into the Port Wakefield overpass, and those works are underway at the moment. There’s $100 million going into the upgrading of the Eyre Highway. There is $50 million for the Barrier Highway, the one from Adelaide to Broken Hill. There is $44 million for the Horrocks Highway and $100 million—one I’m proud of and pleased with—for the sealing of the Strzelecki Track, which is currently cut by floodwaters or at least wet roads. The Strzelecki Track would be a wonderful connection to your home state of Queensland, Deputy Speaker Wallace. There is another $5 million for the Adventure Way, which is the little bit of road that connects Innamincka to the Queensland border. The APY Lands will get a new road with $113 million. The Augusta Highway will get a $130 million upgrade and, on top of that, another $64 million to begin its duplication. There’s $114 million recently committed for safety works. There’s $8.8 million going into the Dublin turn-off, which takes you into the South Australian sale yards. That’s an enormous effort. We have never seen this kind of support coming into a regional seat like Grey before, and I am extremely grateful to the government for those outcomes.
There is more, though. It’s like the steak knives, I must say—there’s more yet. Local government has been receiving substantial funds through local roads and community infrastructure funding, the Roads to Recovery program grants and, in South Australia, the special local road component, which the member for Barker and I are lobbying the government furiously to continue in the next budget.
Councils are very happy with the support they are getting from the Commonwealth government across a range of projects. The Adelaide to Tarcoola railway re-railing project will get $252 million. Not only will it bring up a heavier, better freight load—an extra two tonne an axle—but that rail is coming out of the Whyalla steelworks, so it’s a win, win, win and there’s a lot of people employed getting that job done. More than $8 million has come in for bridge replacements around the electorate of Grey. The electorate of Grey isn’t covered with vast rivers, it must be said, but we do have bridges over some of our waterways. They need upgrading and replacing and that’s getting done.
There is a list of programs here with outcomes that will take a little while to get through. We have three uni hubs. We have now got one of the 10 training hubs that was recently announced in Port Pirie at the top of the Spencer Gulf.
We’ve had drought community support. Twenty councils have received two allocations of $2 million. An enormous amount of good public works has been done. Importantly, they have employed local contractors to get the work done. That is what the Drought Communities Program was about—making sure we have a workforce in place for when the farming economy comes good.
We’ve had good grants for sporting infrastructure. On the weekend I opened the new Kadina hockey pitch. There was a $422,000 grant there. We’ve had a range of capital grants going to aged-care facilities. We’ve had ARENA back backup battery projects and studies on how to build pumped hydro at a couple of locations in Grey. We have had money coming in through the Safer Communities Fund. Our country publishers have enjoyed some support from the federal government. Tackling Tough Times Together is another program that pumps money into my rural communities. The Stronger Communities and Volunteer Grants are very important grant programs.
There have been school infrastructure grants. I’ve lost count of the number of schools I’ve gone to to help snip a ribbon to open new facilities. They are greatly appreciated. There have been water grants. Ag shows have been supported coming out of the drought and the cancellations last year because of COVID. They have had support.
The dog fence is another one I’m incredibly pleased to associate my name with. I didn’t know whether we would ever nail this one. The 1,600-kilometre dog fence in South Australia is over 100 years old. It is being replaced. There is $10 million from the federal government, $10 million from the state government and $5 million from growers. It’s a wonderful coming together of the people who need to get this job done. It will ensure that we can continue to farm sheep in the southern part of South Australia.
Programs to address 30 mobile phone black spots have been either approved or completed—most of them have been completed. Rural and regional airstrips have benefited right across the electorate. There are not too many airstrips left in Grey that aren’t sealed. Most of them have lights and appropriate facilities.
There have been some fantastic heritage grants. Just recently over $5 million went to the Copper Coast for the preservation of the old mining sites at Moonta that were so instrumental in the building of South Australia. We support remote art studios, particularly on the APY lands but not only there. There has been a lot of money come in through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.
We have four headspace units. That’s a pretty good outcome. Smart farms, men’s sheds and the RSLs have all benefited from a number of grants, including armistice grants, RSL infrastructure grants and saluting their service grants programs. RJIP, the Regional Jobs and Investment program, has $20 million for the upper Spencer Gulf. Indigenous protected areas have had support. I am very pleased to announce in this place that the NBN is complete in Grey. Everybody in Grey who wants NBN service can get it.
That’s a pretty long list. At every opportunity I take to task those who think they miss out because the electorate looks safe. I don’t often get enough time to tell people about that long list. We should remind people of what we actually provide for an electorate like Grey. If you live in one corner of an electorate like Grey, you might not be very aware of the expenditure and support that is going to the other side, given it could be up to 1,000 kilometres away and you mightn’t read the same newspaper or see the same television signal.
For business we have some good tax breaks. There are tax breaks for individuals as well, but for business there is the accelerated tax write-off for capital expenditure for water works and for fodder conservation. These are all good things to build a stronger and more resilient agricultural sector.
JobKeeper has been very important. I think there are about 2½ thousand left on JobKeeper in Grey. That gives an indication of just how busy the economy is. There are jobs all over the place. There are positions we just cannot fill. That is one of the great challenges we are facing at the moment.
We’ve had higher caps. This wasn’t in the last budget, but over the last few years: we’ve had the doubling of the Farm Management Deposits and of course the support for apprentices, which we just uncapped the other day. We anticipate that there will be another surge of interest in that across Grey, given that we’ve just opened the training hub in Port Pirie, as I said before.
At the moment, the Grey economy is in the fast lane. The building industry is absolutely flat strap on the back of HomeBuilder. Conversely, the tourism industry, somewhat at difference to parts of Australia, is going very well indeed—while South Australians were confined to South Australia they decided to go and have a look at it! Many of the regional tourism operators have recorded record, or close to record, seasons since about July last year. The same thing can’t be said for Adelaide, which relies on conventions, major events and inward traffic from internationals. But in Grey we’ve certainly had a pretty good result.
We have a burgeoning space industry in Grey, given that we’ve had this long relationship with Woomera. The interest now is on the lower Eyre Peninsula, with Southern Launch. There’s the possibility of building a really large industry out of this. The world is looking for hundreds and hundreds more low-orbiting polar satellites to be launched and we happen to be sitting on one of the prime pieces of real estate in the world, shooting down over the Southern Ocean where planes don’t fly regularly. It’s relatively empty sea and air space in that direction so it’s an ideal site.
There are a number of port projects on the burner at the moment. There are a couple of deep-sea ports and a barging facility which are all trying to raise finance to get them established. I don’t think they’ll all go ahead but I certainly hope that at least one of them does. In fact the government has put some money on the table for one of them, to try to get that project over the line. It would be very important in providing some diversity in South Australia, particularly with the farming community
We do have challenges, though. One that I’ve spoken about in this chamber many times is the challenge of getting professionals to come and work in our rural communities. We are faced with long-term population decline in the inland areas, largely caused by the super efficiency of modern agriculture. This is an issue that I’ve raised here many times: the lack of doctors in rural areas. I couldn’t ask for better attention from the government and the Minister for Health—certainly, everybody is aware of the problem. But being aware of the problem and finding the solution are not necessarily the same thing. I have certainly moved to a stage now where I favour the view that we’re going to have to come up with a different payment structure for rurally based doctors.
Let me lay it on the table here: I think it shouldn’t cost the government anything at all, because linked to this dire shortage of doctors in country areas is exploding overservicing in metropolitan areas. We know that metropolitan people and doctors are accessing Medicare items at more than double the rate they’re being accessed in country areas. It’s clear that it’s overservicing and we are going to have to move as a government—or someone is going to have to move—to put a cap on it or otherwise we’ll go through the same process that we did in the 1990s when we cut the training numbers because we had overservicing in the cities. But if we cut the training numbers then we’ll be right back to where we started and importing doctors again and whatever. Of course the imported doctors have saved our lives in country areas, so don’t let me talk them down, but the advantage of the imported doctor is that when you import them they’ll go where you tell them to. When you train them in Australia they’re beyond that kind of guidance! I think that’s one of the failings of the system.
But it’s not only doctors. We don’t have enough dentists and we don’t have enough vets, we’re struggling for nurses and we’re struggling for age-care workers. A local town—and I don’t know what the current rate is over the last two weeks—was unable to open its pub on Friday nights because they didn’t have enough workers, the motel had cut the number of rooms it had available because it couldn’t get enough cleaners and one of the roadhouses was shutting on Saturday afternoons. This is a town of a thousand people. It’s a great little place to live in but they can’t get workers. And I know of a French cafe in a coastal town that has cut its hours because it can’t get workers. I’m aware of Nyrstar in Port Pirie looking for tens of workers—20 or 30—and they can’t get any starters. These are good, well-paid full-time jobs and yet they’re struggling to fill them at the moment.
These are some of the issues facing government, but certainly the opportunities are out there. There are opportunities out there in a seat like Grey. That long list I went through demonstrates that the government believes in the regional areas and is building the infrastructure fit for purpose so we can employ all those people and get them out there. (Time expired)