Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Opposition Whip) (16:00): From where I sit in regional Australia, all I can see is the dust from the ALP wheels as they skid back to the city. They’ve been in government for six months, and already they’ve slashed a heap of programs that were so beneficial to my electorate. In fact, I’ll point out while I’m here that over a billion dollars was committed to roadworks in my electorate in the last five years, and it actually transformed that network.
One of the very first things the new government did—I spoke about this issue yesterday in the House—was to draw or extend the district of workforce shortage provisions for rural doctors into the suburbs of the capital cities, for crying out loud! That has already reduced our ability to attract foreign-trained doctors into regional areas. In the area that I come from, in regional South Australia, after the announcement in the last couple of days and the news that two doctors are leaving, we will have one doctor for 7,000 people. The minister has refused to meet with the Northern Eyre Peninsula Health Alliance, which delivered a report with the $300,000 left to them by Greg Hunt to precisely address this issue—and the minister has refused to meet them. I’ve asked him, over six months. I gave him the report as soon as he became the minister. So there’s no action from the ALP on fixing the rural doctor crisis where I come from.
Even before that, the very first thing this government did when it came to power was to announce the cancellation of the cashless debit card, which, of course, started in Ceduna, in my electorate. The first signs on the streets at the moment are exactly what I warned of. The intake of alcohol has vastly increased. The gambling rooms at the hotels are full. There have been fights on the main street, and there’s been an increase in all of those antisocial behaviours that the cashless debit card was introduced to address. This is an assault on regional Australia.
The BBRF program—a fabulous program that delivered more than $50 million into my electorate—has been cancelled. The new government has said that there’ll be a couple of new programs. I get that; that’s fine. But the round 6 submissions have been in for six months; they have been fully assessed by the department; and, after thousands of hours of effort from local community groups, they’ve just thrown them in the bin. Some of the groups will no longer be eligible to actually apply under the new systems because the argument’s moved on—the caravan’s moved on. They’ve had to move their projects on. The record speaks for itself here.
While I’m speaking of regional Australia, I might point out that, in this period, the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government proudly announced some investment in regional South Australia, with $10 million for the Holdfast Bay council. Holdfast Bay, for those who don’t know, is where the Glenelg tram goes to. It’s the closest beach to the city of Adelaide. Another $6 million went to the Marion council, which sits right alongside the Holdfast Bay council; it starts about three kilometres out of the city. If that’s regional investment, we are in trouble in regional Australia.
I might point out that the last time the Labor Party were in government they had a program called Stronger Regions, and that paid for a ring route around that very remote airport of Perth, for crying out loud! We’re seeing funds that we directed into regional Australia over the last 10 years being redirected away for city projects. Look at the regional airports and services in my electorate, Madam Deputy Speaker. In the March budget, delivered by the coalition government, there was an amount of $28.5 million to continue the subsidy for regional security scanners in airports like Whyalla and Port Lincoln. In this budget that’s gone. That money will dry up around March next year. For the people who live in Whyalla, that’s going to put $50 a seat onto a Qantas flight, and in Port Lincoln it looks like being $18. I’ve spoken to Qantas this week. I know the local councils can’t bear the strain of that kind of imposition. It costs over a million dollars a year to run these scanners.
That legislation, incidentally, was introduced by the current Prime Minister back in 2012. I told him at the time exactly what would happen if they pushed ahead with this process. The category that actually nominates these aeroplanes has changed slightly in the last two years, and now we’ve got this block on regional transport coming at us straight down the road.