While there has been the odd setback, our steady battle against COVID-19 is paying dividends and we have engineered one of the best responses in the world.
Last week’s outstanding news that the Australian economy grew by 3.1% in the December quarter following the 3.4% reported in the September quarter indicates that the economy has almost fully recovered from the massive 7% fall suffered in the June quarter.
Many sectors are at full capacity and are hampered by the lack of willing workers. However, there are some sectors which are struggling, notably those communities reliant on international tourism, including travel agents and those in and associated with the airline industry.
There was a clamour calling for an extension of the enormously successful JobKeeper program which has kept the doors open on thousands of businesses and kept hundreds of thousands in work.
However, while JobKeeper was the right policy at the right time it nevertheless pays people not to work and that kind of policy is simply not sustainable in the long-term. By meeting half the cost of flights to a number of the worst affected centres, the government is clearly focused on getting people back to work and ensuring those who access the program will spend a portion of their savings in those areas who are suffering the most.
This approach has been the template for other sectors such as ‘Homebuilder’ which while costing the taxpayer around $2 billion it is estimated to have generated $18 billion worth of building thus tapping into private savings instead of just debiting the taxpayer. I expect a similar result for the tourism sector.
This update will cover:
- Vaccine roll out
- Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy program
- Fixing Roads in Grey – $71 million to improve road safety
- Regional Health Minister visit
- Volunteer grant program opening soon
- Senior Australians – Be Connected Program
- Indigenous Voice Proposals
- COVID VACCINE ROLL OUT COMMENCES
The COVID-19 vaccination program has officially been launched, with Australians in priority groups starting to be vaccinated from 21 February.
The vaccination program marks a very important stage of our fight against COVID-19 and I will be getting mine as soon as it is my turn to do so. The more Australians who elect to be vaccinated, the sooner we will reach the levels required to fully restore our economy and return all the freedoms we enjoyed in Australia before the pandemic.
The COVID-19 vaccine has been fully tested and proven to be safe and effective by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. The vaccine is free of charge and every Australian will be given the opportunity to receive the vaccine.
We are currently in Phase 1a) of the roll out with front line health workers and aged care residents receiving the vaccination. It was pleasing to see vaccinations kick-off in Grey last week in Port Pirie, Quorn and Coober Pedy.
For more information about the various phases of the roll out here in South Australia visit this link.
- THOUSANDS OF NEW APPRENTICE AND TRAINEE JOBS
I am constantly being told by businesses that they cannot source workers, and in particular, skilled workers. The shortages are particularly acute in Grey and I have been one of those in the party-room calling for a response and last week’s announcement is excellent news!
Tens of thousands of new job opportunities will be created for apprentices and trainees across Australia with the expansion of the targeted wage subsidy program as part of the Government’s National Economic Recovery Plan.
The Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy program is fully subscribed, helping to create 100,000 apprenticeships in less than five months.
The program will now become demand driven and expanded for a full 12 months for new apprentices and trainees signed up prior to 30 September 2021.
It is estimated that this demand driven expansion will generate around 70,000 new apprentice and trainee places, with the Government investing around $1.2 billion.
Creating jobs, generating economic opportunities and boosting the skills of workers right across Australia are at the heart of our National Economic Recovery Plan, as we build back from the COVID-19 recession.
The Boosting Apprenticeship Commencement program has already supported 564 apprentices and trainees in Grey and has to date assisted almost 40,000 businesses in Australia to take on a new apprentice or trainee. By expanding this wage subsidy for another 12 months, we’ll be helping businesses to create even more jobs, further supporting our National Economic Recovery Plan for Australia.
Further information on the support available to eligible businesses and employees is available at https://www.dese.gov.au/boosting-apprenticeship-commencements
- ROAD SAFETY FUNDING FLOWS TO GREY
The level of support coming from the Federal Government repairing and renewing roads in Grey is unprecedented. It has been brought about by a number of factors including our $110 billion commitment to infrastructure and our response to the handbrake put on the economy by COVID-19 however, managing to finally have governments in both Canberra and Adelaide that recognise the value of rural Australia to the economy and committed to building the transport networks of the twenty first century has been a game-changer.
A visit by the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack coincided with the announcement of another $71 million of road safety projects in Grey.
Providing the funding now not only adds to the growing momentum of the economy, it delivers an important upgrade to our infrastructure lessening the “path-to-market” costs for our productive sector and provides safer roads for all.
It was a pleasure to have Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack in the electorate at the time. We took the opportunity to inspect the works at Port Wakefield and view an up-to-date video of the progress on the duplication of the Joy Baluch Bridge in Port Augusta, both really taking shape at the moment.
The Deputy Prime Minister said the additional works under the $2 billion Road Safety Program were due to be completed by mid-2022, and were made available to the states on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis to ensure they got on with the job.
For more information on the Australian Government’s road safety initiatives, visit www.officeofroadsafety.gov.au.
The successful projects in Grey funded by our $71 million and boosted by a 20% contribution for the state are:
- Eyre Highway – Head of Bight to Ceduna $7,280,000 – Shoulder sealing, Audio Tactile Line Marking (ATLM) on centrelines, curve widening, surface improvements.
- Augusta Highway – Collinsfield to Redhill $6,000,000 – ATLM on edge and centrelines, pavement treatment and some barriers.
- Barrier Highway – Burra to Cockburn $14,400,000 – Shoulder sealing, lane widening, ATLM, surface treatment.
- Stuart Highway – Pimba and North of Coober Pedy $14,080,000 – Shoulder sealing, surface treatment, lane widening and ATLM on edge and centrelines.
- Upper Yorke Road – Maitland to Arthurton $4,800,000 – Shoulder sealing, surface treatment, lane widening and ATLM on edge and centrelines.
- Tod Highway – Kyancutta to Lock $3,200,000 – shoulder sealing, surface treatment.
- Birdseye Highway – Lock to Rudall $3,200,000 – Shoulder sealing, surface treatment.
- Minlaton Road – Minlaton to Stansbury $2,400,000 – Widen lanes, seal shoulders, ATLM on edge and centrelines.
- Horrocks Highway – Wilmington to Templers $15,920,000 – Shoulder sealing, ATLM on edge and centrelines, lane widening, surface treatment and widening of Rocky River Bridge. Includes $1M of planning for tranche 3 works.
- HEALTH, ROADS AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS HOT TOPICS IN GREY WITH VISITING MINISTER
It was good value having Hon Mark Coulton MP, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government in Grey in February.
In a jam-packed visit the Minister and I hosted Health roundtable discussions in Cummins and Port Augusta to discuss health challenges and regional doctor shortage issues with doctors and stakeholders in the community.
We also met with Council representatives from the Eyre Peninsula, Yorke Peninsula and Adelaide Plains to hear about workforce challenges and spoke a lot about telecommunications and road funding in regional areas.
A highlight was meeting with medical students (below photo) in Kadina to hear first hand what we need to do to attract more doctors to regional SA.
- VOLUNTEER GRANT PROGRAM OPENING SOON
The next round of Volunteer Grants will open shortly in Grey.
Grants of between $1,000 and $5,000 are available to help community organisations and support the efforts of volunteers.
Grants can be used to buy small equipment for volunteers or reimburse volunteer fuel, transport or training costs and organisations must have an ABN to be eligible to apply.
Further information and guidelines can be found on the Community Grants Hub at: https://www.communitygrants.gov.au/grants/volunteer-grants-activity-2021-volunteer-grants
An Expression of Interest form must be completed by organisations wishing to apply for funding and returned to one of my three offices (Port Pirie, Whyalla or Kadina). These are due to be returned by no later than Monday 19th April at 5pm and can be sourced by contacting an office via phone or return email.
- DIGITAL HELP FOR SENIOR AUSTRALIANS
For some, getting a start with new technologies can be daunting, but there can be great benefits in “having a go”. Which is why we are helping older Australians improve their digital skills, confidence and online safety through “Be Connected”.
The Government is providing $28.3 million to help bridge the digital divide to help senior Australians remain connected with friends and family online and learn new skills.
The Be Connected program is run in partnership with the eSafety Commissioner offering a range of learning services to provide access to devices and the internet to help them to remain connected with their family, friends and online services.
The initiative which has helped more than half a million older Australians to use Instagram and Facebook to beat loneliness and stay connected with their tech-savvy kids and grandkids is now being rolled out further across the country.
A newly released Swinburne University report found that Be Connected had a statistically significant impact on participants’ digital skills, knowledge and confidence and promoted online safety and social connectedness.
The evaluation also found that older female participants were more likely to start with very low to moderate digital skills and confidence but experienced the greatest improvement following involvement with Be Connected.
For more information about the program visit beconnected.esafety.gov.au or call the Be Connected Helpline 1300 795 897.
- INDIGENOUS VOICE PROPOSALS
In January the Government commenced public consultation on the Indigenous Voice Interim Report. Consultation will run over four months, with a number of channels provided for people to have their say.
Co-Chairs of the Indigenous Voice Senior Advisory Group, Prof. Dr Marcia Langton AO and Prof. Tom Calma AO have said that it’s important all Australians be given the opportunity to engage in the process.
I met recently with them and discussed their report which I believe has a good chance of providing a pathway that the majority of Australians can agree to. I congratulated them on their work and committed to raising awareness of it where I could.
Professor Langton said, “These proposals are not finished. Now it’s time for everyone to consider them and provide comment so that we can put a well consulted final proposal to Government. Your feedback will help us make sure the final proposal is one that can work for all Australians.”
The report is being widely considered and is receiving a high level of support.
I encourage anyone with an interest to read the report and associated materials at https://voice.niaa.gov.au and to provide feedback either directly or through me to assist us in advancing the process.
Reminder of Key Resources
SA COVID-19 updates – www.covid-19.sa.gov.au or call 1800 253 787
Federal Government updates – www.australia.gov.au
This website is regularly updated to give you the latest Coronavirus news, updates and advice from government agencies across Australia.
Economic Assistance – www.treasury.gov.au
All the fact sheets on individual and business economic assistance measures are available here.
Business Support – www.business.gov.au or call 13 28 46
Find financial assistance, eligibility and timing for government support for Australian businesses.
If you have any feedback or questions, please don’t hesitate to reply to this email or give one of my offices a call on the phone numbers listed below. I always welcome residents’ feedback.
Rowan Ramsey MP
Federal Member for Grey