by Michael McCormack – Member for Riverina, Leader of the Nationals, Deputy Prime Minister
When you get the little things right, the big things look after themselves.
Many of us are too busy focusing on the ins and outs of everyday life to really stop and think about the big things like raising a family, having a rewarding career and living a comfortable life.
We know what it’s like to see yet another bill thrown on the table that seems to have gone up since last month’s and for people living in our cities buying a house can seem completely unattainable.
Congestion can bring our cities to a grinding halt. People spend too long, often at a standstill, on motorways and not enough time at home with their families or doing something they enjoy.
All of this can take away from focusing on what’s actually important.
Since coming in to Government, right around the nation The Nationals are investing to fix that with better motorways, once-in-a-generation projects such as the Melbourne Airport Rail Link and helping commuters on the Sunshine Coast get to Brisbane faster and safer with a better rail line.
But there is a marvellous, almost untapped potential in our towns and regional cities which I think we need to unlock to help solve the problem.
There’s no congestion in Cootamundra or gridlock at Gladstone.
Housing is affordable and there are opportunities to start and build a life as far as the eye can see.
But to make the solution work we know a couple of things are key.
You need a good, local job. And The Nationals are playing our part.
We are delivering 50 new local jobs to Coffs Harbour through the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, among many around the country.
This is something our city-centric opponents mock, but the move to AgriFutures to southern NSW is already saving the taxpayer more than $1 million per year in rent alone.
But more has to be done. I want to work with businesses – big and small – to follow our example and make regional Australia home. Already, Albury-Wodonga calls a number of big companies home and that is a welcomed investment of income and talent into both communities.
You want a good, local school for your children.
So we are investing in regional schools and universities to help schools such as Newman Senior Technical College in Port Macquarie to have full use of a new learning area for hospitality, as well as making sure country schools get their fair share of funding.
You also need decent sporting and arts facilities available locally so they can have a well-rounded upbringing.
So we have delivered projects such as a new multipurpose sports centre in Gippsland, with synthetic fields for a number of sports including hockey and soccer, providing the region with an all-purpose wet weather training venue.
You want to see a local doctor. And my priority after becoming Nationals’ Leader was making the Murray Darling Medical Schools Network – a vision to train local doctors from end to end in the regions – a reality.
It’s simply not good enough that local people are forced to travel far too far for medical treatment.
So the medical schools network will comprise the University of NSW in Wagga Wagga, the University of Sydney in Dubbo, CSU/Western Sydney University in Orange, Monash University in Bendigo and Melbourne University/La Trobe in Bendigo, Wodonga and Shepparton to ensure there’s a doctor to see you in the bush.
You want good local roads.
Whether it’s investing in the corridors of commerce in the Pacific and Bruce Highways, or record investment through local Councils for local roads, we are partnering to make potholes a thing of the past and get you home sooner and safer.
You want to be able to make a phone call and have reliable internet. That’s why there are 867 new mobile towers built or on the way across regional Australia to better connect country people.
All this is possible, and all of this is something we have worked in Government to build and invest in.
We can fund it thanks to a strong economy and it’s happening because we live in the regions too and understand the need.
But it’s looking after these little things which we know Labor will cut if ever it came to Government.
Labor will talk a big game for the bush as it does as every election, but that doesn’t train a local doctor or seal a local road.
The investments the Nationals in Government have made into better country sporting facilities and the basic right of an ability to make a phone call all come from a funding pot Labor thinks is better spent in its perpetual turf-war with The Greens.
Labor didn’t build a single mobile tower. Nor did it quarantine regional funding programs for places we would all agree are regional.
Instead, cities – where houses are too expensive and people spend too long in traffic – were only made worse by a Labor obsession with inner-city votes and inner-city seats.But we know there is a better way. A way which looks after the little things.
With good local jobs. Good local opportunities. And – finally – good mobile reception.
These are the little things The Nationals are getting right which means the big things – like raising a family, having a rewarding career and living a comfortable life – are a lot easier to achieve.