The Australian Government has embarked upon an unprecedented infrastructure investment program, investing $37 billion in land transport and infrastructure across Australia, over the six year period of 2008‑09 to 2013‑14. The Australia Government is making good progress on this infrastructure program, which is supporting our growers and producers, boosting rural and regional productivity and sustainability and improving safety right across the country.
Investment through the Nation Building Program, the Nation Building Plan for the Future, Roads to Recovery, Black Spot Program, untied local roads grants and through the Australian Rail Track Corporation will significantly develop our national infrastructure and create stronger communities, addressing capacity constraints, improving road safety, and improving connections to major cities and ports.
Rail Productivity Improvements
This Budget invests $996 million of equity into the Government-owned Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) for a productivity-boosting package of projects across rural and regional Australia to take more trucks off our regional and rural roads, and to improve the reliability, performance and capacity of the interstate freight rail network.
The upgrades are to the North-South and East-West rail corridors. These corridors are identified by Infrastructure Australia as national priorities. The upgrades will benefit households and businesses right across rural and regional Australia, from Loadstone down to Geelong, from Parkes to Maroona, and from Kalgoorlie to Koolyanobbing. For example, the planned re-sleepering work along the 691 kilometres of track from Broken Hill to Parkes will support 370 regional jobs.
These projects will put in place stronger steel rail, more concrete sleepers, bridge replacements, new passing loops and associated rail infrastructure to strengthen the network and secure its future over the longer term.
The Budget also allocates $70.7 million to complete the detailed planning on the Moorebank Intermodal Freight Terminal Project in Sydney's South West, with the staged redevelopment of the site expected to start in 2013. The facility will take more than one million trucks off Sydney's roads, with benefits along the entire supply chain, including in rural and regional Australia.
The Government's Australian Apprentices Incentives Program provides an additional $1.2 billion to boost Australia's skilled workforce and deliver long-term improvements to our national and international competitiveness. The Program aims to encourage employers to open up genuine opportunities for skills-based training of their employees, through provision by the Australian Government of financial incentives to employers who employ and train an apprentice or trainee. The government also funds a range of personal benefits for apprentices and trainees to encourage retention in, and completion of their apprenticeship or traineeship.
The Government will conduct a pilot of improved drought support measures in a region of Western Australia for 12 months from 1 July 2010. This is a key step in our commitment to deliver a reformed drought support system which better helps farmers prepare for future challenges. For the first time, support measures will recognise both the social and financial impacts of drought. Under the current system, assistance is not provided until farmers reach crisis point, which can place them and their families under significant pressure. Three reports have been completed to inform the National Review of Drought Policy — looking at climatic, economic and social impacts of drought.
Exceptional Circumstances assistance will continue, including Exceptional Circumstances Relief Payments, the Exceptional Circumstances Interest Rate Subsidy and Transitional Income Support, along with a range of other drought support initiatives for farmers and drought-affected communities.
Australia remains free from many of the pests and diseases that affect our primary industries in the rest of the world. The risk of pests and diseases continues to grow, due to factors such as climate change and increased global movements of people and goods. A strong biosecurity and quarantine system is critical to our regional and rural industries and underpins jobs. We remain committed to a risk-based, science-based and conservative approach to quarantine.
In 2009‑10, the Government progressed reforms recommended by the independent review of Australia's quarantine and biosecurity arrangements. Trials were conducted at the border towards developing a more comprehensive, risk-based intervention strategy, the Biosecurity Advisory Council was established, an interim Inspector General of Biosecurity was appointed, the drafting of detailed new biosecurity legislation continued and negotiations with states and territories on an intergovernmental agreement on biosecurity neared completion. Reform will continue over the coming years.
The Government also announced an additional $14.7 million in 2009‑10 to help plan quarantine IT system upgrades, examine future quarantine station needs and continue drafting new quarantine legislation.
In addition, the Government is working to deliver the largest reforms to export certification services in a generation, with a $127.4 million industry reform package ($75.7 million to be allocated in 2010‑11).
In 2010‑11, funding for biosecurity will allow the Government to continue with the foundation reforms already underway and to deliver the next stage of reforms. The government will also maintain its support for the Export Certification Reform Package, continuing to implement improved delivery arrangements for Australian Quarantine Inspection Service inspection and certification services in 2010‑11.
As part of the National Health and Hospitals Network reform, the Australian Government is committed to improving rural health care and is introducing a range of initiatives targeted at rural, remote or regional communities.
The Government is ensuring that funding for small regional and rural hospitals and Medicare Locals reflects the needs of rural communities and the higher costs associated with delivering services in these locations.
The Government is working to improve access to health care in rural communities. This includes investing $120 million over four years in capital funding to increase the number of sub-acute beds or their equivalent in rural and remote multi-purpose services and expanding the number of rural communities eligible to apply for multi-purpose service funding. Funding of $18 million over three years is also provided to allow Medicare benefits to be claimed at certain hospitals in rural Australia to improve access to primary health care services for communities.
The Government is committed to encouraging health care workers to work in the bush and supporting those who currently do so. This includes ensuring that half of new GP and specialist training places continue to be provided in rural and remote communities and investing $34 million over four years in rural services for nurses and allied health professionals to allow them to continue their professional development. In addition, the Government will invest $6.5 million over four years to provide a further 100 clinical placement scholarships per annum for allied health students in rural and other areas of need to enhance the size, distribution and retention of the allied health workforce.
The Rudd Government is also investing more than $1 billion to improve regional and rural health outcomes and critical health infrastructure through the Health and Hospitals Fund.
At the Pacific Island Forum Leaders meeting in August 2009, the Prime Minister committed to Australia playing a lead role in negotiating and implementing arrangements to help secure the region's valuable fishing stocks. The Government is delivering on this with a three-year, $2.4 million program aimed at settling legal arrangements that will allow countries in the region to share data and better cooperate in fisheries enforcement activities. This process will begin with a meeting of Pacific Island Forum fisheries and law enforcement/justice ministers, to be hosted in Canberra by the Australian Government.
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) will continue its enforcement activities to help prevent and deter illegal foreign fishing in conjunction with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service program, Southern Ocean Maritime Patrol and Response. Sustainable fish stocks underpin regional jobs in Australia and support our food security. The Australian fishing industry employs the latest technology and manages fishing effort to ensure our fish stocks are sustainable for the long-term. The Rudd Government will continue to invest in prevention and deterrence to ensure illegal foreign fishing does not undermine the profitability of our domestic fishing industry.
The Australian Government is committed to the long-term protection and conservation of the Great Barrier Reef, recognising its vital ecological importance and significance to regional economies and the Australian community.
Funding of $12 million over two years from 2010‑11 will provide resourcing for three key measures including; increasing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's baseline funding by $4.2 million over two years, $3.8 million over two years for measures to improve the outlook of the Reef and $4 million over two years to repair and upgrade critical infrastructure of the popular tourist destination and educational facility, Reef HQ Aquarium.
Improving the Outlook of the Great Barrier Reef focuses on environmental stewardship, expanding the Reef Guardian initiative to increase community, local government and industry programs to adopt environmentally sustainable best practices, facilitating knowledge and sharing of information to achieve critical environmental outcomes for the Reef.
The Government has allocated an additional $6.5 million to fund Family Support Drought Response Teams in 2010‑11 in those communities still experiencing severe drought. The additional funding will enable community organisations to provide much needed services such as counselling, skills training, family support, home visiting and case management to those farming families most in need.
The Government is delivering on its commitment to accelerate the commercialisation and deployment of new renewable and low-emission energy technologies.
The 2010‑11 Budget includes the establishment of the $652.5 million Renewable Energy Future Fund, expanding the Clean Energy Initiative announced in the May 2009 Budget to a total of $5.1 billion in investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. This will complement the 20 per cent Renewable Energy Target by supporting the research, development and demonstration of low-emission energy technologies, including through the industrial scale Carbon Capture and Storage and Solar Flagships Programs.
The establishment of the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy in March 2010 complements the expanded Renewable Energy Target in accelerating the development and deployment of renewable energy in Australia and driving down technology costs. Furthermore, the creation of the Australian Solar Institute in August 2009 will support research and development into solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies.
A National Long-Term Tourism Strategy was launched by the Government in December 2009. As part of this strategy, the Government will provide $5.5 million to establish a National Tourism Accreditation Framework, and $4 million to ensure the continuation of the China Approved Destination Status Scheme.
Forgotten Australians and former child migrants will have access to a specialised support service to help them locate personal records and trace their families as part of the $26.5 million initiative for a new National Find and Connect Service.
The loss of identity and connection with family is one of the most traumatic and distressing outcomes for Forgotten Australians and former child migrants as a result of their experiences in institutional care.
The Australian Government's investment will fund the new National Find and Connect Service, a records tracing and support service, which will help Forgotten Australians and former child migrants to trace their personal and family histories and get in touch with members of their families, where possible.
The National Find and Connect Service will provide a national website and 1800 number as a central point for records and family tracing and offer case management and counselling support services from trained providers to support Forgotten Australians and former child migrants on their journey to locate records and re-connect with their families.
The new service follows on from the Australian Government's historic apology last year to the estimated 500,000 children who were placed in institutional or out of home care in the last century, otherwise known as the Forgotten Australians. Prime Minister Rudd also apologised to the estimated 7,000 child migrants who were sent to Australia and placed in institutional care.
The Australian Government has committed $46 million to establish a funding pool that will respond flexibly and quickly to high priority needs identified in the Remote Service Delivery National Partnership priority locations.
This measure is a significant first step towards more effective collaboration across Australian Government agencies that will reduce red tape and ensure remote Indigenous communities are able to access the services they need.
This investment builds on the success of the Local Priorities Fund which was established under the Closing the Gap initiative in the Northern Territory in order to address local priorities such as environmental health and safety, community information technology equipment and essential maintenance and repairs for community facilities.
The Australian Government is providing $44.3 million over four years to reform the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) program in the Torres Strait. These reforms contribute to the Council of Australian Government's target to halve the gap between Indigenous and non‑ Indigenous employment within a decade.
These reforms are an extension of reforms to the CDEP program that commenced in other areas of Australia from July 2009. This measure will ensure national consistency in the CDEP program and that Indigenous job seekers in the Torres Strait have the same incentives and participation requirements as others in the CDEP program.
The Australian Government is investing $6.9 million for Aboriginal Hostels Limited to undertake necessary repairs and refurbishments to a number of its hostels. Aboriginal Hostels Limited is the largest provider of affordable temporary accommodation for Indigenous Australians.
To provide disability and carer groups with funding of up to $30,000 each to enable people with disability, their families and carers to make an active contribution to the National Disability Strategy, the Carers Strategy and the Productivity Commission's inquiry into long-term care and support.
The aim is to effectively engage people with disability, their families and carers and the peak bodies that represent them in these processes to ensure they are responsive to the needs and aspirations of those with the lived experience of disability.
The organisations will have a degree of flexibility in exactly how they apply these funds and may use them to fund travel and accommodation for those living in regional and rural areas to ensure their participation in metropolitan consultations. Alternatively, the organisations may use the funds to: run specific workshops/forums in regional areas of Australia; engage vulnerable people or people with mobility restrictions in consultations; or contract a facilitator to conduct their specific forums and write up the results into a report.
Disasters are common occurrences in Australia and the majority of disasters occur in our rural and regional areas. In the Australian context, states and territories have primary responsibility for the protection of life and property. The Australian Government complements the relevant state or territory response, where appropriate, to lessen the impact on individuals and communities and to assist in their recovery.
No amount of assistance can ever fully address the suffering and loss experienced by Australians as a result of disasters, but it is hoped that the recovery assistance provided, together with other available assistance and generous community support, goes part of the way towards helping people and communities recover and get back on their feet.
The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) has an ongoing role in addressing the recovery needs of individuals, families and communities affected by disasters.
Over 2009‑10 FaHCSIA provided assistance to victims of flooding in northern NSW, in the southern and northern regions of Queensland and to victims of the bushfires in Western Australia.
The Australian Government will provide whole of government ICT data communication equipment and satellite facilities on Christmas Island to improve service delivery capability with funding of $11.2 million over three years.
The Government is committed to enhancing access to justice for all Australians, including Australians who live in rural and regional areas. The Government is providing an additional $154 million funding over four years to enhance access to justice through increased funding for legal aid commissions, community legal centres and Indigenous legal services. This funding will help to increase the availability of legal assistance generally, and will provide particular support for service providers in regional Australia.
The Government will provide funding of $2 million over the next four years to non-government organisations for the development and delivery of human rights education and engagement programs for the community. The Government will also provide an additional $6.6 million over four years to the Australian Human Rights Commission to enable it to expand its community education role and to provide information and support for human rights education programs.
The Government will work in partnership with community organisations and the Australian Human Rights Commission to make sure education and information is available right across the community.
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