The Nationals seized an opportunity in last week's Liberal leadership chaos and used the transition to Malcolm Turnbull to negotiate a much better deal for regional Australia.
Arguably one of the bigger victories for the Nats was the transfer of the water policy to the Agriculture Portfolio held by Barnaby Joyce, which includes the oversight of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. This outcome follows directly on from a policy motion moved by the Inverell Branch at state and federal conferences calling for the two portfolios to be combined.
The change ensures the continual focus on water in agriculture, and in particular on farmers and communities who depend on irrigation. Barnaby spoke about the reliance of water in regional towns, particularly along the Murray-Darling:
“There's been a whole range of state-based schemes as well that have delivered water back into the Basin. We understand that, but we've always stood by a triple bottom line which is social outcomes, economic outcomes and environmental outcomes.”
Other negotiated wins for the Nats include increased payments to stay at home parents who have a child under one year of age, and a continued commitment to the Inland Rail, a project that will see the removal of 200,000 trucks from our roads. The Inland Rail Delivery Plan will reduce freight transit times between Brisbane and Melbourne by ten hours, reducing costs and decreasing paddock to plate times for our agricultural industry. The construction of the inland rail, which will occur over a ten year period, will employ 16,000 people.
The ongoing funding for communication technologies including the eradication of mobile and TV black spots has also been secured in the new agreement, as has the establishment of a new jobs program to address areas of particularly high unemployment. A plan to overcome the financial barriers of regional students seeking tertiary qualifications was also discussed – a positive outcome for our school-leavers who wish to pursue further education at university.