The 21st National General Assembly of Local Government (NGA) was held in Canberra last week.
At the NGA, the Australian Rural Road Group (ARRG) held its Annual General Meeting. I was pleased to be invited by the ARRG to speak at their meeting.
The ARRG is a non-political organisation of over 100 rural local governments, rural businesses and local communities that are promoting innovative ways of addressing the declining state of rural roads across Australia. Their focus is tying agricultural productivity to funding strategic freight corridors.
I was pleased to hear from the ARRG that the Government’s Roads to Recovery Programme has been well received by members of the group. The 2015-2016 Federal Budget confirmed that in the upcoming financial year, the Australian Government is doubling Roads to Recovery funding from $350 million to $700 million.
In my speech to the ARRG, I did acknowledge that there are still challenges in fixing our country roads.
Australia’s mining and agricultural sectors rely heavily on our local road network. The condition of our local roads not only affects the productivity of our local economy, but also the productivity of our country.
The Coalition Government is currently working towards measures that will reduce the heavy reliance on our local road networks. One measure is the development of an Inland Railway between Melbourne and Brisbane, via central-west NSW and Toowoomba.
To help construction start as soon as possible, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, the Hon Warren Truss MP, has created a high-level Implementation Group chaired by the former Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon John Anderson AO.
The Implementation Group will be providing its delivery plan and business case for Inland Rail to the Government in the next couple of months.
The Coalition Government has announced that it will provide an additional $1.35 million to support the continued implementation of the National Wild Dog Action Plan (NWDAP) over the next two years.
The NWDAP provides direction for the national management of wild dogs to minimise their negative impacts on agricultural, biodiversity and social assets.
Wild dogs are estimated to cost Australia’s agricultural sector up to $66 million per year through livestock losses, disease transmission and control costs.
As a farmer, I know that no dollar figure can reflect the frustration and distress that wild dog attacks cause for the farmers who put their heart and soul into raising and protecting their livestock.
I am grateful that the Minister for Agriculture, the Hon Barnaby Joyce, understands the great need for the NWDAP and I am confident that the continued implementation of the NWDAP will benefit many farmers across our region.