Photo caption: Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton pictured with members of the Moree and District Historical Society, which received funding under the last round of the Stronger Communities Programme to replace its printer and scanner.
Register interest for Stronger Communities funding
I’m currently taking expressions of interest for Round 8 of the popular Stronger Communities Programme (SCP), with grants of up to $20,000 available for eligible not-for-profits or local governing bodies.
The Stronger Communities Programme has funded so many worthwhile community projects over the years, including a kitchen upgrade for the 3rd Broken Hill Sea Scouts, a shelter for Trangie Central School, new gym equipment for Orana Haven Aboriginal Corporation and the installation of solar panels at the Baradine Golf Club under the last round.
It’s projects like these that help to boost community participation and contribute to vibrant and viable communities, which is exactly why this program was established by the former Coalition Government.
A total of $150,000 is available under this latest round to fund up to 20 small capital projects in the Parkes electorate. Funding can be used for small-scale infrastructure upgrades, fit-outs and equipment purchases. If your community group has a suitable project in mind, I encourage you to submit an expression of interest to my office by 5pm AEDT on Friday 10 March.
For more details and to download an EOI form, visit my website: www.markcoulton.com.au/stronger-communities-programme-round-8-open
Red tape hurting our regional visa applicants
I’m continuing my calls for the Labor Government to immediately reverse its decision to impose a defacto regional processing penalty on skilled workers hoping to take up one of thousands of jobs that need to be filled in our regional communities.
A ministerial direction imposed by Immigration Minister Andrew Giles allows for the prioritisation of visa applications in relation to healthcare or teaching occupations, however it doesn’t account for applications for Skilled – Regional visa (subclass 887). As a result, when someone applies for a skilled regional visa, they are put at the bottom of the pile and not given priority processing even if they want to take up a critical role such as a nurse, disability support worker, or a doctor in a regional town.
At a time when communities throughout the Parkes electorate are crying out for skilled workers, thousands of people who can help fill that labour shortage are being unfairly denied visa prioritisation just because they want to live in regional and rural Australia.
I raised this issue back in November and have written to Minister Giles several times on behalf of constituents in the Parkes electorate, but it has fallen on deaf ears. Unfortunately, since then, the number of distraught people contacting my office is only rising as this issue continues.
This is not good enough, and once again highlights Labor’s total disregard for our regions.
Win for farmers and miners
I’m pleased that after days of speculation last week, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed the Labor Government would not axe the fuel tax credit scheme. This is a win for common sense and relief for all Australian farmers, miners, truckies, fishers and foresters.
I spoke about this issue in Parliament last week, following a report released by the Grattan Institute, recommending this scheme be scrapped.
The diesel road tax is intended for heavy road vehicles such as large trucks. These vehicles cause wear and tear on our roads so it’s fair they should pay for road repairs. The credit scheme provides a rebate to those businesses that use fuel for off-road vehicles as part of their operations, such as for a tractor on farm or a piece of mining equipment. These vehicles don’t use public roads and therefore shouldn’t have to pay the tax.
It would have been a folly for the Government to even consider scrapping this scheme – our agricultural and mining businesses should not have to pay a tax for something they don’t use. And if off-road vehicles and machinery were made to pay a road tax, the cost of the food, energy and services they provide would increase and that increase would have to be passed on to consumers.
Corporate Australia’s disconnect
I also took the opportunity in Parliament last week to speak about the disconnect between corporate Australia and our regional communities.
It follows the decision of a number of CEOs to work on Australia Day to show their virtue in support of Aboriginal people.
Yet the CEO of the National Australia Bank wasn’t so thoughtful when the Wee Waa branch was closed, most disadvantaging the elderly Aboriginal people who are unfamiliar with online banking.
And while the Telstra CEO also chose to be virtuous by working on Australia Day, where were they during the pandemic when the kids at Wilcannia couldn’t learn from home because they had no internet connection?
The Aboriginal people of my electorate don’t need the sympathy and virtue of corporate Australia, they just want the support to continue the great work they’re doing on the ground to improve their communities.