All eyes were on Broken Hill with the NSW Nationals State Conference. As the Federal Member for Parkes I was delighted to welcome conference delegates as well as a number of high profile colleagues and visitors. From the Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Leader of The Nationals, Barnaby Joyce, Premier of NSW Gladys Berejiklian, NSW Deputy Premier and State Leader, John Barilaro, Deputy Federal Leader, Senator Fiona Nash, Small Business Minister Michael McCormack and Assistant Health Minister David Gillespie were among the many faces in the crowd.
I also enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with a number of communities in the Electorate, starting with Coonamble and Cobar on Monday, then on to Wilcannia and Tibooburra for another overnight stop. I met with community groups and constituents in Tibooburra and Packsaddle before rolling into Broken Hill late on Wednesday and for a full day of meetings on Thursday before the Conference’s opening event on the Mundi Mundi Plains.
ParentsNext program announcement
I was pleased to receive the good news that disadvantaged parents of young children in the Electorate of Parkes will soon have access to the training and support they need to become work ready, thanks to the Coalition Government’s decision to expand the successful ParentsNext program.
The best form of welfare is a job and we are focused on helping more parents of young children into work and off welfare.
After successful pilots, the Government is rolling out ParentsNext nationally, to connect more parents of young children with personalised support to improve their work readiness by the time their children start school.
Since launching in April last year, ParentsNext has made a real difference in the lives of young parents and their families; giving them the support and help they need to get ready to work. ParentsNext participants receive personalised assistance, including advice on relevant education and qualifications, and training to improve numeracy and literacy.
When mums and dads take time out from work to raise small children it can be difficult to find a way back into the workforce when their children start school. It can be even more daunting and difficult for those parents who may not have worked previously and don’t have the skills or experience that employers are looking for.
Here in the Electorate of Parkes, we have many families receiving the Parenting Payment. ParentsNext will be a real opportunity for many of those parents to get the assistance they need to get work ready.
Further information about ParentsNext is available at www.employment.gov.au/parents-next
Financial counselling service funding
Farmers in need of financial counselling across the Electorate of Parkes are set to benefit, with a $560,000 funding injection to support people across the Central and Northern NSW regions.
The funding is part of a more than $1.6 million boost across seven Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) providers to support farmers in hardship. We all know how valued the RFCS is for local farmers, giving them free access to professionals to work through their financial situation and build financial self-sufficiency.
This funding is part of an important funding boost across Rural Financial Counselling Service regions experiencing significant demand. It will help ensure farmers in financial hardship can make business decisions and undertake business planning and farm debt mediation to improve their circumstances.
This service will help support farmers who leave the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) program. FHA is a successful program that has helped 7,360 farmers since July 2014. RFCS can provide valuable assistance for farmers who leave FHA and want to continue to improve their circumstances.
For more information on the RFCS visit agriculture.gov.au/rfcs or call 1800 686 175.
Great Artesian Basin funding boost
The Coalition Government's investment in economic growth and development in regional Australia has been boosted by providing an additional $8 million for water infrastructure upgrades across the Great Artesian Basin for two years to 2018-19.
The funding will allow important water infrastructure improvements across the Electorate of Parkes to continue after round four of the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI) ceases on 30 June, 2017.
As drought continues across many regions in the nation, this new Great Artesian Basin Infrastructure Investment Program will deliver improvements in supported water and land management that directly support our community.
The Coalition has now provided more than $115 million to state and territory governments to help protect the future of this vital water resource by capping free flowing bores and replacing inefficient open bore drains with modern piped reticulation systems as part of the GABSI programme.
The Great Artesian Basin is essentially a huge underground water storage underlying 22 per cent of Australia from Cape York to Dubbo, housing approximately 65 million Megalitres of fresh water. It's a resource that is vitally important to this region.