Federal budget on the right road for regions

The Federal Treasurer today committed significant funding to maintain the economic recovery after the COVID-19 pressures.  While the budget will be in deficit the projections for recovery are positive and exceed earlier forecasts. 

Investment in farm businesses, infrastructure, biosecurity and telecommunications are the standout announcements for regional Australia in the 2021/2022 Federal Budget and will contribute to stronger regions, according to NSW Farmers.

President of NSW Farmers’ James Jackson said a $15 billion infrastructure spend including a significant allocation to the Great Western Highway duplication, over $370 million for biosecurity, and the continuation of instant asset write-offs for small business all indicate regional NSW and agriculture are valued aspects of Australia’s economy. 

“NSW Farmers has led advocacy for Great Western Highway upgrades, so it is heartening to see a significant sum directed to its upgrade,” Mr Jackson said.

“The duplication of the Great Western Highway will enhance safety and efficiency for the transport of primary produce from the Central West over the mountains and will also improve access to the Eastern Sea Ports.”

“The additional $1 billion in road safety upgrades, as well as $1 billion for local road infrastructure projects are critical commitments for regional communities.”

Mr Jackson said farm businesses are at the core of a productive agriculture sector, so the continuation of the instant asset write off schemes are an important support mechanism. 

“We applaud the Australian Government on continuing the instant asset write-off to June 2023, especially after years of setbacks including drought, bushfires, COVID-19 and flooding.”

In response to the systemic unfair trading issues identified in the Perishable Agricultural Goods Inquiry by the ACCC, $5.4 million to fund projects that improve market transparency in the perishable agriculture goods industry is a welcome first step.

Mr Jackson said NSW Farmers has been at the forefront of raising biosecurity risks and the Association is pleased the country’s efforts to fight threats to livestock and crops will be boosted by $371 million.

“NSW Farmers has been particularly active in raising awareness around container cargoes and the threats they can introduce, such as African swine fever (ASF). It’s promising to see $160 million has been set aside to strengthen Australia’s defence against biosecurity threats at the border, including $60 million specifically for ASF.”

The Budget also gives regional connectivity a much needed boost with $105.8 million for a second round of the Regional Connectivity Program – and the added commitment of $24.6 million to fund additional shovel-ready projects.

“Increasingly the agricultural sector is expanding technological on-farm processes. For these to deliver the productivity gains anticipated reliability must be assured.”

Mr Jackson said significant opportunity lies in investment in skills and training, as well as in manufacturing, however the devil lies in the detail in how this will benefit agriculture and regional NSW.

“The Australian Government has announced 450,000 new training places for job seekers and young people, including 170,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships.”

“Education and jobs are central to strengthening regional areas and the agriculture sector, and NSW Farmers has flagged plenty of opportunities in this space.”

Other budget announcements relevant to agriculture and regional communities include:
•    $198.2 million to support Australian exporters and businesses and $37.4 million to implement the Simplified Trade System reforms to enhance international competitiveness;
•    $29.8 million to grow the agricultural workforce;
•    $214,500 commitment to enhance wild dog management; and 
•    $65 million to boost bulk billing rebates to provide more affordable healthcare for patients in regional, rural and remote areas and deliver regional and remote incentives. 

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