Two significant election commitments were announced last week that are focused on improving rural and regional areas including communities across the Parkes electorate.
Firstly, it was announced that a re-elected Coalition Government will re-focus its billion dollar National Stronger Regions Fund (NSRF) to be eligible only to regional, rural and remote Australia and be broadened to include small community groups.
Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash said the new fund – to be known as the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) – will focus on regional, rural and remote areas, and will ensure that smaller councils in rural areas will not have to compete with major capital city councils for funding.
We will introduce three infrastructure project categories to ensure projects of a similar size will be ranked against each other and small projects will not compete with major projects for funding.
The new BBRF will also create jobs and drive economic growth in regional areas through investments in two streams: infrastructure projects and community investments.
The majority of the fund is expected to go to infrastructure, however the new fund will, for the first time, provide an opportunity for small community groups and volunteer organisations to access funding where they can't contribute matching money themselves.
The BBRF recognises that while capital investment is critical, it’s not just buildings and roads that grow strong regional communities. The community stream of BBRF will help build local leadership and community projects which have previously been ineligible under this programme. Local communities will choose their own priorities to grow their local communities and can look to government for partnership funding to do so.
Building Better Regions will add to the success of the Coalition Government’s $1 billion National Stronger Regions Fund and will run rounds from the existing funding. NSRF rounds 1 and 2 combined allocated $505 million to 162 projects across the nation.
Secondly, it was announced that a re-elected Coalition Government will develop a National Rural Generalist Pathway to address rural health's biggest issue – lack of medical professionals in rural, regional and remote areas.
Australia's first ever Rural Health Commissioner will be appointed to lead the development of the pathway as well as act as a champion for rural health causes.
I am very pleased the Coalition is delivering more policies to get more medical professionals to the bush.
Extra recognition and financial incentives for Rural Generalists will help attract more medical professionals to the bush and help keep the ones we already have.
Rural, regional and remote Australians deserve better access to medical professionals and this policy will help deliver that.
Rural Australians don’t expect a brain surgeon or a cardiologist on every corner, but they rightly expect access to quality health services, comparable to their city counterparts.
We have a flood of medical professionals in the cities yet we have a drought of medical professionals in the country areas. This policy is a big step forward to addressing that.
As a first order of business, the National Rural Health Commissioner will be tasked with developing and defining the new National Rural Generalist Pathway and providing a report to Government which lays out a pathway to reform.
The Commissioner will work with rural, regional and remote communities, the health sector, universities, specialist training colleges and across all levels of Government to improve rural health policies and champion the cause of rural practice.
The Commissioner will also lead the development of the first ever National Rural Generalist Pathway, which will significantly improve access to highly skilled doctors in rural, regional and remote Australia.
The National Rural Health Commissioner will be a champion of rural health, working with Government and the health sector to enhance policy and promote the incredible and rewarding opportunities of a career in rural medicine.