Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (17:11): Firstly, I’d like to thank the member for Indi for bringing this motion forward. It gives us an opportunity to talk about many good things in regional Australia. I was a bit surprised by her speech, though, when she talked about the lack of action. I vehemently disagree. In fact, I can remember being so envious of Indi when the Mobile Black Spot Program was first announced. Indi outscored virtually every other electorate in Australia, so it’s not underserviced at all. It did have a different member then, but there you go.
I am the member for Grey, and I’d rate Grey as just about as regional as you get. My region—or regions—covers 92 per cent of South Australia, an area 10 per cent bigger than New South Wales. So I know about regions and I know about government investment in regions. I’ve lived in that region, if you like, for all of my 64 years, and I’ve never seen government investment in it like we’re seeing at the moment.
I have heard a bit of a tale lately that the grants programs are rigged around marginal seats. The last time I looked, Grey was a bit over 13 per cent on a two-party preferred basis to the Liberal Party, and yet there is over a billion dollars of investment in our road network coming from the Commonwealth government at the moment. I wouldn’t call that pork-barrelling into a regional electorate. I would say that is resisting the view that you don’t get paid out unless you live in a marginal electorate. I’ve never seen works like this. We’re building a new bridge in Port Augusta, a duplication on the main thoroughfare from Sydney to Perth. It’s also the main thoroughfare from Adelaide to Darwin. We’re building an overpass facility and dual lanes through Port Wakefield, which is a town to the south where the roads meet. We’re starting the duplication of the Augusta Highway. We’re doing a $100 million upgrade on the Eyre Highway. We’ve seen more than $50 million of work go into the Barrier Highway and more than that into the Horrocks Highway. So there are things happening right across Grey.
We’ve just seen in this budget an extension of the special local roads component for South Australian councils which actually recognises the fact that they got dudded in the national deal that was done over 20 years ago. It’s been there for most of that time, but, every time it comes up, we have to argue for it again. It wasn’t funded at the end of the Labor government, so it fell into disrepair for a couple of years, but we managed to get it back on the burner.
We’re seeing investment in a whole lot of areas across Grey through things like the on-farm water grants, which are enabling farmers to get their production platforms in place and make them relative to today. We’re seeing over 30 mobile phone towers go in under the Black Spot Program across Grey. These are fantastic outcomes. In the budget which has just been announced, we saw an actual growth in the on-farm water grants. There’s more support for local shows—which have taken a bashing through the COVID virus; none of my local shows ran for 12 months—and it’s warmly welcomed. The instant asset write-offs for all businesses right across Australia, but certainly in regional Australia and certainly in my part of the world, are making an enormous difference. We’re seeing huge investment. You can barely buy a farm ute at the moment. It’s really going off the scale in a big way. Those large contracts are bringing people into the regions. At the moment, there are no fewer than three wind farm constructions going up in Grey. These include battery storage, and solar cells to go with it. That doesn’t happen on its own; it happens because the right levers are in place to make the investments incurred. These are good outcomes for regional Australia. I would say we are in as bright a spot as we’ve been for some time. We have high prices, we have very good commodity results on just about everything, and the government is backing the regions in to keep multiplying that effect and growing the value thereof.
I welcome your motion, as I say. I’ve been in this place for 13 years now, and there’s never been a time when I’ve felt better about the government’s treatment of people in the region. One of the things I’ve been hot about ever since I got here is the lack of doctors in the regions. We are as severely affected as any. As we saw in the budget, there is recognition of the fact that we need a different payment system for doctors that work in rural and regional areas, as opposed to those that work in the city. (Time expired)