Speech: The government's flashy announcements

Speech: The government's flashy announcements Main Image

In my electorate on the New South Wales South Coast, we are all too familiar with the government's flashy announcements which turn out to be duds. The government loves a flashy announcement—a great headline. This year, my electorate of Gilmore has seen many of them following a year of drought, bushfires, floods and COVID-19. I have spent the best part of this year trying to chase down those announcements and see where they have actually translated to action on the ground, and I am still doing it. It's like one giant maze. It didn't start with the bushfires. Our farmers have been dealing with this for years. As they struggled to deal with the impacts of the drought, losing stock, losing income and struggling to get by for years, the government stood up time and time again to announce drought support packages. They were packages that sounded great—rejigging the Drought Communities Program extension or the new Drought Community Support Initiative and more. They were flashy announcements to help farmers, unless of course they lived on the New South Wales South Coast. Our region was left out over and over again, because our farmers, according to the Coalition, were not in drought. It was a slap in the face for local farmers and totally incomprehensible.

Until recently, local farmers were ineligible for drought loans. They were ineligible for any form of federal government drought support. We watched, over and over again, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister get up to talk about how they were looking out for farmers and how they cared about farmers. They were flashy announcements with no substance for farmers in my electorate.

Even worse, on numerous occasions the Coalition voted against support for local dairy farmers. They voted down bills that would have investigated a fairer farm gate milk price for our farmers, something that is desperately needed—very disappointing. Then there were stimulus announcements. In an area with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, you would think we would be high on the list. Take, for example, the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund—a golden opportunity to support local businesses wasted with only one grant to my electorate. Just one.

There can be no better example of this government's flashy announcements with no follow through than the response to the bushfires. Slow and inadequate is the only way to describe it. Let's start with the government's $2 billion fund. That was a flashy announcement. I know in my electorate this felt like sweet relief. I have been calling for more urgent support since the bushfires began, and it seemed like the government had finally listened with a free clean-up of impacted properties, support for tourism operators, support for small businesses and support for local governments, but here we are, more than nine months after the bushfires and we are still yet to see many of these funds.

I welcomed the announcement of $440,000 in successful grants for local events. That announcement, made less than three weeks ago, was funded from the $2 billion fund, which was announced in January—that is, nine months later. There were Special Disaster Loans that were slow or non-existent for farmers. There was a bushfire clean-up, but that has fallen far short of the mark. Councils are still looking for funding support for local projects under local economic recovery plans. The list goes on.

The Coalition loves to use statistics. They use numbers to make it sound like they have done more than they have. Perhaps if they spent more time on the ground they would see the reality. Only last week we had more flashy announcements that fell short for the South Coast community. Last week the Deputy Prime Minister announced $100 million for Regional Recovery Partnerships, targeted at regions suffering from drought, bushfires and the pandemic. That is the South Coast to a T, but, for some inexplicable reason, our community has not been included in this announcement. Apparently we have not suffered enough—absolutely shocking. It would be simply unbelievable if it didn't speak to a wider pattern. Announced only yesterday was $7.5 billion for transport infrastructure, but there's no money for the Princes Highway. There's no money for the South Coast. Where is the logic there?

Today, with the budget set to be handed down, I implore the Treasurer and the Prime Minister: my electorate of Gilmore does not need any more flashy announcements or false promises. We need help to recover from this year of terrible economic hits. We need targeted support and local projects that create local jobs, and we need them now.