REGIONAL BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS
The Australian Government will provide $2 billion over six years to contribute to on-the-ground water solutions. The Australian Water Fund represents a major investment by the Australian Government in water infrastructure, improved knowledge and water management, and better practices in the stewardship of Australia’s scarce water resources.
In 2005-06, the Australian Government will continue the biggest and most sustained investment in transport infrastructure the nation has ever seen. Funding for rail and road infrastructure next financial year is $2.2 billion — a figure that will grow even higher in future years as the Australian Government continues to implement AusLink, the National Transport Plan. Through AusLink, the Australian Government is investing $12.5 billion in essential land transport infrastructure over five years to 30 June 2009.
The Australian Government is investing $351 million over the five years to 2008-09 to assist more young Australians into traditional trades through Australian Technical Colleges. In 2005-06, the Australian Government is providing $65.4 million to assist with the establishment of the first of the Australian Technical Colleges, to start in the 2006 school year.
The $1 billion Investing in Our Schools Programme will directly assist schools throughout Australia over the five years to 2008-09. $700 million in new funding will be injected into state and territory schools throughout Australia to help repair, replace or install new items critical to the schools’ overall infrastructure needs. A total of $300 million in new funding will be provided over the same period to Catholic and independent schools through the Block Grant Authorities.
The Australian Government through the Rural Medical Infrastructure Fund (RMIF) will provide $15 million over three years to help rural councils establish ‘walk-in walk-out’ community medical facilities in small communities, making it easier to recruit or retain general practitioners. The RMIF will provide grants of up to $200,000 to help rural councils set up these medical centres in smaller communities. Such centres will make it easier to attract and retain doctors to these areas.
The Australian Government will invest an estimated $240 million in 2005-06 to construct new facilities and enhance existing facilities at a number of Australian Defence Force locations across Australia. In 2005-06, the Australian Government will also build upon an increased program of maintenance on the national Defence estate commenced during 2004-05 and will meet its promise of an extra $300 million over three years from 2005-06 to cover increasing costs of maintaining the Defence estate.
The Australian Government will provide $284.6 million in 2005-06 to deliver Indigenous housing, infrastructure and essential municipal services programmes through arrangements with state and territory governments and regional and local Indigenous community housing providers. A total of $93.3 million will also be provided for the Aboriginal Rental Housing Programme.
The 2005-06 Budget provides $100 million from 2005-06 to 2009-10 inclusive to improve Australia’s capacity to understand and respond to priority environment concerns. The CERF Programme will support environmental research that demonstrates strong public good outcomes in a range of critical areas, and draw on multiple disciplines, professional partnerships and existing research efforts.
The Metropolitan Broadband Blackspots Programme is a three-year $50 million initiative, with $10 million allocated in 2005‑06, which will provide access to equitably priced broadband services in metropolitan areas where such services are not available. These areas are in each state and territory capital city and Wollongong, the Central Coast of New South Wales, Newcastle, Geelong, Palmerston and the Gold Coast, including Tweed Heads.
The Budget includes funding to deliver commitments made during the 2004 election for projects identified and supported by local communities. Six significant regional icon projects will receive $27.8 million, 15 Tasmanian projects share $2.8 million and 14 other projects will benefit from $10.8 million in grants.
The Australian Government will spend $48.3 million in 2005-06 as part of the successful Sustainable Regions Programme to assist regions that are undergoing major economic, social or technological change, and to support community leadership in the development of local solutions to address local needs.
The Australian Government is committed to having regional Australia share the benefits brought by our Migration Programme to achieve a greater dispersal of our migrant and humanitarian intake to regional areas. The Australian Government has approved an increase of 20,000 places to the Skill Stream of the Migration programme in 2005-06 (which will take the total skill stream to 97,500 places). Within the Skill Stream, at least 18,000 visas will be granted under State Specific and Regional Migration categories. The actual number achieved will be largely contingent on the extent to which state and territory governments utilise the State Specific and Regional mechanisms available to them. The Australian Government will work with the state and territory governments to identify skills shortages and to create opportunities to fill this shortage through a number of new initiatives.
The Australian Government will provide $216.3 million over three years in the 2005-06 Budget to a range of departments and agencies for Australia’s hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in 2007. The Australian Government is committed to having regional Australia share the benefits of hosting the APEC forum. While venues are still to be determined, some APEC meetings may be held in regional areas; regional products and capabilities will be showcased; and some of the estimated 10,000 visitors for APEC will participate in regional study tours and tourism.
In August 2004, the Australian Government announced the $48 million Securing Our Regional Skies package to help regional airports and airlines respond quickly to a change in aviation threat levels. In 2005-06, the Australian Government will continue to work with aviation operators and law enforcement bodies to develop response capacity, capability and deterrence at regional aviation facilities.