Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton has had his fears about Labor’s neglect of regional areas confirmed in Labor’s release of their first main Budget last night.
Labor Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ Budget involved spending rather than investment, without a clear strategic direction to steer Australia out of inflation and into a sustainable future.
With high cost of living and inflation putting pressure on all Australians, there has been very little in the Budget which will ease the burden for the majority of middle-income, working Australians and even less for regional areas.
“In the Treasurer’s speech last night there was almost no mention of regional Australia and zero mention of roads, rail, agriculture or infrastructure,” Mr Coulton said.
“The further we unpack this Budget the more it becomes clear that the Labor Government has taken regional Australia and working Australians absolutely for granted.
“While the Treasurer was very happy to announce a small surplus in his speech, he neglected to mention the role that the resources sector, based largely in our regions, played in creating that income.
“The Treasurer has introduced cuts and taxes which regional Australia, including the Parkes electorate, will bear the brunt of, with almost no acknowledgement of the ways in which our regions contribute to the strength of the national economy.
“The new tax on farmers to pay for the biosecurity risk of international imports and increasing the heavy vehicle road user charge for truck drivers will both directly impact our regions and the wider cost of food.
“The last thing our farmers need is to be taxed for what their competitors bring into the country; the last thing that our regions need is a higher tax on truck drivers already struggling with the price of fuel.
“It seems that Labor doesn’t understand that the food we buy at the grocery store is produced by our farmers and transported on our trucks. Introducing these taxes will not bring prices down for people at the checkout, either in the regions or the cities.
“Labor has also displayed an appalling lack of respect for local governments and community groups across our regional areas by not providing certainty around the future of funding for the vital Local Roads and Community Infrastructure (LRCI) program and discontinuing the Stronger Communities Program (SCP), which were both massive boosts for our towns.
“These cuts will devastate councils in my electorate, and it’s unclear whether this crucial, directly beneficial funding will be replaced,” Mr Coulton said.
With much of regional infrastructure stripped out or pushed back, many communities across the Parkes electorate will be left in a state of uncertainty about whether they will receive any of the funding they had previously relied on for local projects.
Mr Coulton has also expressed concerns about the measures Labor is undertaking to bring down expenses for Australians.
“While I welcome some of Labor’s healthcare policy changes, they have neglected the fact that in remote and regional areas the issue is not just affordability, but access,” Mr Coulton said.
“Higher bulk billing is wonderful for the limited group of eligible people who can access a GP who bulk bills, but it won’t help you if the books are closed due to workforce shortages.
“Likewise, lower costs for childcare is wonderful if your child already has a place, however Labor has not added a single new childcare place to address shortages across the Parkes electorate.
“Regional Australia and working Australians are where our economic strength lies,” Mr Coulton said.
“Labor has again demonstrated that they are quite willing to spend money taken out of regional Australia, but they aren’t willing to put it back in.”