2016 Budget a mixed bag for rural Australia

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The Australian Government’s 2016 Budget includes $594 million to buy land for the Inland Rail freight line between Brisbane and Melbourne, and other initiatives aimed at helping farmers in regional Australia. The Australian Government’s 2016 Budget includes $594 million to buy land for the Inland Rail freight line between Brisbane and Melbourne, and other initiatives aimed at helping farmers in regional Australia. The Australian Government’s 2016 Budget includes $594 million to buy land for the Inland Rail freight line between Brisbane and Melbourne, and other initiatives aimed at helping farmers in regional Australia.

There has been a mixed reaction to the Australian Government’s 2016 Budget measures, which include a range of initiatives aimed at helping farmers and others in regional Australia.


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The Budget includes a $594 million commitment to buy up land for the Inland Rail freight line between Brisbane and Melbourne, which will provide a better link for transporting livestock and farm produce.

"Too many of our young people move to the cities and never return," Federal minister for regional development, regional communications and rural health Fiona Nash says.

"The Coalition’s 2016-17 budget aims to help build those sorts of communities in rural and regional NSW and right around Australia by investing in infrastructure and creating jobs and growth in rural and regional areas.

"We’re getting on with the job on Inland Rail by investing $594 million to buy the land for the rail corridor and prepare for construction.

"Inland Rail will connect Brisbane to Melbourne via freight rail and will have massive benefits for farmers and rural communities in regional NSW, growing rural jobs."

The New South Wales leg will run from Narrabri to Gwabegar, Narromine, Parkes, Stockinbingal, Wagga and Albury.

Nash is also confident the Youth Employment Package announced in the Budget will help make regional Australia more productive.

"Youth unemployment can be a challenge in regional areas, so we’re investing $840.3 million into a comprehensive Youth Employment Package for training, internships and incentives for employers which will be targeted at unemployment hot spots."

More jobs for specialised rural financial counsellors will be created, which is made possible by a $7.1 million funding boost and mobile phone and internet coverage will be improved for those in the country.

"The government’s $5.2 billion investment to connect rural and regional households and businesses to the Coalition’s National Broadband Network continues to roll out," Nash says.

"Our $160 million investment to fix mobile phone black spots has already seen contracts signed for 499 new or improved mobile phone towers to cover 3000 black spots."

Other measures to assist regional areas include investing $560 million per year from 2019 onwards for roads as part of the Roads to Recovery program, and a $2 billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility to help states and territories build pipelines, dams and aquifer recharge projects in this financial year.

While pleased to see the Roads to Recovery program extended beyond 2018-19 in the Budget, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) says more is needed to address the $1.2 billion annual funding shortfall to maintain Australia’s local roads.

"ALGA has called for additional funding for the Roads to Recovery program," ALGA president Troy Pickard says.

"More needs to be done to ensure the local road network has the capacity required to address access, productivity and road safety issues, especially in regional areas.

"Additional investment in local roads must be part of the solution to increasing transport productivity on the nation's transport network."

The 2016 Budget also lays out a 10-year plan to stimulate higher business investment through progressive cuts to company tax that have been welcomed by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), which represents Australia’s $119 billion food and grocery sector.

"In this budget the government has recognised the importance of confidence and certainty as a prerequisite for investment," AFGC CEO Gary Dawson says.

"By laying out a 10-year plan to progressively cut company tax the Budget lays the foundation for higher economic growth and a pathway back to a balanced budget."

While adjusted business tax arrangements and funding for Inland Rail and major water infrastructure projects are welcomed, specific deliverables for the agricultural sector are limited in the Budget, according to the GrainGrowers organisation.

"GrainGrowers viewed tonight’s Federal Budget through the lens of what initiatives and programs would have a positive impact on a farm’s bottom line," GrainGrowers CEO Alicia Garden says.

"While it would have been nice to see a few more commitments to help grow the value capture by Australian grain growing businesses, GrainGrowers is realistic about the challenges facing the Government."

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