Over the next five years, $773 million will be provided to support regional initiatives. The Premier addressed the members of SA's rural media to explain key measures in the State Budget 2018-19.
Leigh Radford, President of Rural Media South Australia
Dale Manson, Vice President
Members of Rural Media SA
President of the Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society, Rob Hunt
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for the invitation to address your annual Royal Show Breakfast.
I acknowledge we are meeting this morning on the traditional lands of the Kaurna People and I respect their spiritual relationship with their Country.
It’s good to meet up again with an organisation dedicated to the interests of rural, regional and remote South Australia.
While I want to talk in the main this morning about what our budget does for our regions, let me first raise an issue of more immediate concern for everyone with an interest in rural issues.
I refer to the drought.
It was pleasing to see Scott Morrison, in his first public statement as Prime Minister, signal drought as his first priority.
While South Australia has so far avoided the worst of the big dry that has hit northern New South Wales and Queensland in particular, my Government has not been complacent.
We are conscious that the next month will be critical in determining how the season ends and whether there will be adequate pasture growth for livestock producers through the summer.
As it is, Upper Eyre Peninsula, the Murray Mallee and pastoral areas of the State are experiencing difficult times as they continue to encounter extremely dry conditions.
The latest Bureau of Meteorology seasonal data shows that South Australia experienced its driest July since 1999.
For some of the worst affected areas, the lack of crop and pasture growth has led to soil erosion.
Accordingly, it is important that government works with industry and support agencies in anticipation of needs arising in the event of further deterioration in dry seasonal conditions.
I want to assure our farming communities that government agencies are monitoring the season closely, so we can be ready to respond.
In July, my Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister, Tim Whetstone, established a Dry Conditions Working Group including representatives from Primary Producers SA, Grain Producers SA, Livestock SA and Rural Business Support.
This Group will continue to monitor and plan in the event of insufficient rain in the coming weeks.
This Group is working closely with government officials and the Bureau of Meteorology in the exchange of information and preparation for further action should it be needed.
While circumstances are very challenging for some parts of our State right now, many of our farmers are prepared for these dry conditions and have the necessary plans in place to manage their business and livestock.
It is pleasing to note that this good planning and resilience is becoming part of the story you are reporting.
For those farmers in need of assistance, the State Government contributes funds to Rural Business Support for its Rural Counselling Service.
We have announced that like the Federal Government, we will extend our funding to enable Rural Business Support to continue providing this invaluable financial counselling and planning service out to June 2020.
Prudent management of the budget introduced this week will also enable the Government to further support communities should additional assistance measures be required.
IMPORTANCE OF RURAL PRODUCTION
The importance of our rural production to the prosperity of the State cannot be underestimated.
This is the one week of the year when South Australians are reminded of this.
Reminded that one in four South Australians live in our regions.
That our regions contribute over $25 billion a year to our Gross State Product and produce more than 50% of our merchandise exports, sent to more than 100 countries.
In forming our largest export sector, our agriculture, food, wine and forestry industries support the jobs of around 150,000 South Australians.
They are the largest employer in our regions.
Our primary industries and agribusiness directly generated $15.8 billion in revenue in 2016-17.
This includes final sales from all primary production and associated processing.
And when we include the value of retail food sales, in total this means about $22.5 billion in revenue for our economy.
In Show Week, we are surrounded by fine examples of South Australian livestock, food and wine.
The Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of South Australia is to be congratulated for putting on another magnificent Royal Show.
RECOGNISING OUR HARD-WORKING FARMERS
But we must not ignore the deeper meaning of what is on display.
The hard work of our farmers.
Their persistence and ingenuity in the face of elements over which they have no control.
Their preparedness to do all they can themselves to manage dry seasonal conditions.
All South Australians must recognise that thriving regions are crucial for our future prosperity.
It’s important that through the annual Royal Adelaide Show, as well as country shows and field days, South Australians continue to understand what our agricultural production means, including the challenges as well as the opportunities.
IMPLEMENTING OUR COMMITMENTS TO OUR FARMERS AND REGIONS
The importance my Government attaches to agriculture and our regions was reflected in our election policy commitments.
We meant what we said at the election.
And as our first budget shows, we are now implementing what we promised for our regions.
A BUDGET FOR THE REGIONS
Over the next five years alone, $773 million will be provided to support regional initiatives.
These initiatives include:
- Regional Roads and Infrastructure Fund
The Fund has been established with 30 percent of mining royalties to be paid into it.
Over the next four years, the Fund will receive $315 million
This dedicated stream of funding will maintain and improve the performance of regional and remote transport networks.
We have been working constructively with the Commonwealth Government to bring forward funding for the Joy Baluch AM Bridge at Port Augusta with $200 million to be spent over four years while funding of $88.5 million over three years will be provided for an overpass at the intersection of the Copper Coast and Augusta Highways at Port Wakefield.
The road through Port Wakefield will also be widened from two to four lanes.
In the South East, $14.6 million will be provided over two years to complete the Penola bypass, allowing heavy vehicles to bypass the main street.
- Regional Growth Fund - $150 million over 10 years
This Growth Fund will unlock new economic activity to create direct benefit across regional industries and strengthen regional communities by backing projects providing industry and community-wide benefits.
This year, the Fund will provide up to $5 million for competitive grants and $10 million for strategic growth projects.
- Support for RDA Boards
We will provide $12 million over four years to enter into longer term agreements with Regional Development Australia Boards.
These Boards comprise representatives from business, government and community groups and support regional economic development and regional businesses.
This arrangement will enhance collaboration between the RDAs, encouraging them to undertake work on a wider range of cross-regional issues and economic development projects
- $192 million over 10 years for country health services
Additional resources have been provided for country health services, new and upgraded infrastructure and aged care services.
Our investment in health in our regions will include:
- $140 million over 10 years to address the backlog in capital works requirements
- $20 million over four years for development and implementation of a rural health workforce strategy to address the shortage of health practitioners in rural areas
- $12 million over four years to deliver additional chemotherapy services, enabling patients to receive treatment closer to home
- $8.7 million over four years to upgrade facilities and expand services at a number of regional hospitals including Ardrossan, Mount Barker, Yorketown and Murray Bridge Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital
- $8.5 million over three years to build a new 24 bed aged care facility at Strathalbyn
- $2.1 million over two years to expand and upgrade facilities within the renal dialysis unit at Mount Gambier Hospital
- $1 million over four years for the South Australian Healthy Towns challenge to encourage rural and regional communities to develop creative and innovative ways to help improve the health of people in their area
- $160,000 over two years to support a pilot program for an intensive outpatient addiction rehabilitation program in the Riverland
- In education, we will invest $100 million to establish a new year 7 to year 12 public secondary school for 1,500 students in Whyalla. The new school will open in 2022.
In total, we will invest $194.7 million in the regions over four years to modernise education facilities.
In addition, our Literacy Guarantee to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes will roll out across all schools.
- Mobile Phone Black Spots Program
$10 million will be provided over three years to address black spots across the State and improve connectivity for regional businesses and communities.
This Fund will enable the Government to work with the Commonwealth and telecommunications companies to deliver new and upgraded digital solutions to address black spots in regional and remote South Australia.
There are, of course, many other initiatives in our budget that will provide benefits across all communities and industry sectors, metropolitan as well as non-metropolitan.
These include the largest tax reduction in our history through cuts to ESL, payroll and land taxes over the next four years.
We are also capping NRM levies from July 1 next year and changing the way our natural resources are managed.
Across South Australia, $184 million will be spent over the next four years to improve energy market reliability and make electricity bills more affordable for households.
This will include more than $53 million in the regions.
OTHER BUDGET INITIATIVES
More than $200 million of joint State-Federal support will be provided to create an additional 20,800 apprenticeships and traineeships.
We are also boosting government support for tourism and our exporters, which is important for our regions.
There will be an additional $10 million for tourism marketing and $12.8 million over four years to establish new South Australian Trade Offices in the United States, Japan, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and a more extensive presence in China.
This budget backs up the Strong Plan for Real Change we announced at the election with a strong budget to deliver on our election commitments.
It will create more jobs, lower household and business costs and provide better services for South Australians.
OTHER SUPPORT FOR OUR REGIONS AND PRIMARY PRODUCERS
In addition to the budget, a range of other initiatives are supporting our regions and primary producers.
Legislation came into effect this week to require mandatory farm debt mediation to provide our farmers with improved protection and financial security.
We are waiving stamp duties charged on multi-peril crop insurance policies to enable our farmers to manage risks, plant more crops and target higher yields.
While we have also provided funding for wild dog trappers and one of the biggest co-ordinated baiting programs ever undertaken in South Australia to protect our $4.7 billion livestock industry.
We are undertaking an independent, expert review on the merits, or otherwise, of maintaining the current State-wide moratorium on genetically modified food crops.
To better protect our horticulture, new biosecurity measures are being introduced to prevent fruit fly while the launch of One Biosecurity will help our livestock producers to manage, protect and promote their on-farm biosecurity.
Further backing for our food producers will come through annual funding of $1 million to their peak body, Food South Australia.
For the wine industry, the $1.8 million Industry Development Scheme will support projects adding economic value and improved productivity.
Water security for our primary producers is a priority of my government.
The first 10 kilometres of the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme transfer pipeline has been laid since March.
This is about a third of the pipeline’s length.
I was pleased to join Tim Whetstone and our Federal colleague, Anne Ruston, on site recently to inspect this progress.
This $155.6 million initiative will deliver significantly more water for primary producers on the Northern Adelaide Plains.
Implementation of the $265 million South Australian River Murray Sustainability Program is nearing successful completion.
While South Australia’s 40 gigalitre water recovery target for the River Murray is being achieved through the flagship $240 million Irrigation Industry Improvement Program.
This Program supports projects being delivered on the ground – from small family farm businesses to large international-scale corporate ventures.
My Government has also committed to giving greater support to River Murray irrigators in their forward planning.
A STRONGER VOICE FOR OUR REGIONS
Initiatives like these are being implemented because our regions now have a strong voice in government.
One-third of the members of my parliamentary team live in the regions.
Four of them are ministers.
They are ensuring that around the Cabinet table and in the Liberal party room, whenever key decisions are taken, the needs of our regions are given the priority they require and deserve but have lacked for a long time.
POPULATION GROWTH FOR OUR REGIONS
Before taking your questions, I’d like to refer to one other current issue of importance to our regions – population growth.
I’ve said that South Australia needs to boost its population because we have been lagging behind the rest of Australia for too long.
This issue is very important to our regions.
For example, we should be using skilled migration to address the very real and growing gaps in specific sectors in rural and regional areas – many of which require relatively low-skilled qualifications and occupations.
To be clear, it is incumbent on us to train and retrain young South Australians and those who are moving between careers.
That’s why we have committed significant State funding over the next four years to boost apprenticeships and traineeships.
But we also need to use skilled migration as a strategic tool to unlock new activity and new opportunities.
I am continuing discussions with the Federal Government about a policy response that recognises the two-speed challenge our nation faces with some cities and regions growing at a much faster rate than others, meaning a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.
I am also emphasising to the Federal Government the importance of South Australia retaining its regional status across several visa classes to ensure we can attract more skilled and business migrants.
I’ve spoken this morning about investment in our regions because my Government recognises the importance of regional businesses and our primary industries.
Such investment pays massive dividends for our State and our nation.
Because when our regions are strong, so are our cities.