01 November, 2022

The Hon. J.S. LEE (14:41): 

In question time on 18 October, in responding to a question regarding round 6 of the Building Better Regions Fund, and the application for funding for the Mount Gambier and District Saleyards project, the minister said:

What I have done is advocate on a number of occasions to a number of different ministers—and my office has been in contact with those ministerial officers on a number of occasions—to impress upon them the importance of this program and how important it is for our local region in the South-East.

My questions to the minister are:

1. In light of the decision by the federal government to scrap the Building Better Regions Fund and cut the $250 million allocated to round 6, will the minister now admit that she has been utterly ineffective as an advocate?

2. Will the minister also admit that she has failed the South-East community as a minister?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:42): 

I thank the honourable member for her question. Her question of course is referring to the Building Better Regions Fund, and the one part of her question that was accurate was that the fund was discontinued in the federal budget last week. This is the Building Better Regions Fund of which the Australian National Audit Office had investigated the management. The National Audit Office had stated in their investigation that, 'Departmental advice on projects most worthy of support was routinely ignored by ministers.'

We know the previous federal Coalition government did not provide funding to the Mount Gambier saleyards application in BBRF round 5. We know that the Australian National Audit Office found that, in regard to BBRF, 179 funding decisions were not properly documented, and that there were 164 times when the then federal Coalition minister decided not to approve recommendations that were made by the department.

So I wonder whether the Mount Gambier and District Saleyards transformation project was among those 164 times that recommendations were made by the department but rejected by the then federal Coalition minister. If that was the case—and I guess we may not know unless FOIs can get into that detail—it is certainly the former Coalition federal government that failed. It is certainly those opposite here who failed to advocate to their federal colleagues at the time. It is clearly the opposition here that has been ineffective, both while they were in government and while their federal buddies were in government, while those same federal buddies were involved in ignoring recommendations from the department.

I am very pleased that the federal Labor government has announced a $1 billion fund, or two funds, in terms of regions: the Growing Regions Program, which will deliver on the federal government's strategic priorities for regional Australia through an open and competitive grants process; and also the second grant funding for the Regional Precincts and Partnerships Program, which will provide a strategic nationally consistent mechanism for funding and coordinating projects that support the transformation of important locations across communities and regions, regional cities and rural Australia.

I am very pleased that the Malinauskas Labor government has recommitted the $2.7 million that it had committed to the Grant district council Saleyards project, and I look forward to working with the Grant district council as they apply to these two new funds. I have been in contact with the council to restate the commitment of the Malinauskas Labor government to the Saleyards rejuvenation project, and I look forward to hopefully having some constructive support from those opposite, as well as our local community, which has been so keen to have this project proceed. I look forward to working constructively, if those opposite know the meaning of the phrase.