The Inside Word

Federal Budget Focus – Regional Development

The October 2022 Budget contains approximately 760 initiatives to be delivered in support of the Government’s regional development priorities, including new funding measures and packages. Major funding priorities outlined in the Budget include:

Delivery of election commitments 

  • $1.9 billion to deliver equity investment for the development of the Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct in the Northern Territory, including common use marine infrastructure and regional logistic hubs 
  • $672.7 million to deliver port infrastructure improvements in the Pilbara, Bundaberg and Hunter regions 
  • $500 million for corridor acquisition, planning and early works of a Sydney to Central Coast and Newcastle High Speed Rail project
  • $540 million for Tasmanian highway upgrades
  • $1.5 billion Freight Highway Upgrade Program for freight routes in the NT, WA and SA
  • $332 million for the NT Strategic Roads Package
  • $349.9 million for the Investing in Our Communities Program for small-scale community, sport and infrastructure projects 
  • $22.0 million to develop Townsville’s Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct 
  • $150.0 million towards the expansion of the Cairns Marine Precinct 
  • $50.0 million for a new purpose-built campus of the Central Queensland University at Cairns. 

Regional grants

Growing Regions Program, ~$500 million – Provides access to funding for capital works to support community and economic infrastructure in rural and regional areas. To consist of an open competitive grants program, able to be accessed by local, state and territory government entities as well as not-for-profit organisations, with administered funding expected to be available from 2023 to 2026. The program replaces the Coalition Government’s Building Better Regions Fund, which was criticised for prioritising projects in National Party electorates, and also appears to partially replace the Community Development Grants Program in combination with other new funding commitments. Shares $1B funding with the Regional Precincts and Partnerships Program.

Regional Precincts and Partnerships Program, ~$500 million – Provides a strategic, nationally consistent mechanism for larger-scale infrastructure investment, aimed at transforming regions, regional cities, and rural communities. To consist of a partnership framework between Commonwealth Government and participating state, territory and local governments to allow for joint investment collaboration across different levels of government. Shares $1B with Growing Regions Program.

Clean energy transition

Powering the Regions Fund – $1.9 billion to provide support for regional industries to decarbonise. The Fund’s four key priorities are to support industry, including facilities covered by the Safeguard Mechanism, to decarbonise; to develop new clean energy industries; to support workforce development; and enable the continued government purchase of Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs). $3.3 million has been allocated to support further design and development of the Fund in 2022-23.

Rewiring the Nation – $20 billion in concessional loans and equity to invest in transmission infrastructure projects which are expected to modernise Australia’s electricity grids by supporting new renewable energy and electricity storage projects. Most transmission infrastructure is expected to be hosted in regional Australia.

National Energy Transformation Partnership – $157.9 million to support co-design of Australia’s energy transformation with state and territory governments, includes priorities such as the delivery of a fully integrated energy and emissions reduction agreement, accelerating mechanisms for the uptake of flexible energy supply and progressing a First Nations Clean Energy Strategy.

Regional Hydrogen Hubs Program – $454 million to support the establishment of hydrogen hubs in regional Australia to support the scaling-up of Australia’s hydrogen industry. Includes $100 million to support the Port of Newcastle and the Hunter region to become hydrogen ready, as well as $71.9 million for the new Townsville Hydrogen Hub.

Communications

Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia – $757.7 million across five years to improve mobile coverage in rural and remote communities, including boosting mobile coverage, investing in place-based connectivity projects, expanding wireless connectivity across farms, improving the resilience of communications infrastructure and undertaking a national audit of mobile coverage.

NBN Improvements – $2.4 billion to extend full-fibre NBN access to 1.5 million additional premises, including to over 660,000 in regional Australia. 

Home ownership

Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee – Provides 10,000 places each financial year to support regional first homebuyers to purchase new/existing homes with a deposit of at least 5 per cent.

Manufacturing and resources

National Reconstruction Fund – $15 billion in concessional finance and equity co-investment for projects across seven priority areas: resources; agriculture, forestry and fisheries; transport; medical science; renewables and low emission technologies; defence capability; and enabling capabilities; with a key goal being to drive regional development. To be delivered over seven years from 2023-24.

National Rail Manufacturing Plan – $14.2 million to support regional manufacturing jobs in the rail industry by ensuring that more trains are built in Australia. 

Australian Critical Minerals Research and Development Hub – $50.5 million from 2022-23 to 2025-26 to establish a hub to prioritise strategically significant critical minerals projects, with the objective to grow Australia’s critical minerals sector and to support economic development in rural and regional Australia.

Critical Minerals Development Program – $99.8 million to help early and mid-stage critical minerals projects to overcome technical and market barriers, generate employment and drive regional economic growth.

Rural and regional health

  • $74.1 million to introduce financial incentive payments for doctors practising in regional and remote areas
  • $47.7 million into Medicare to support telehealth psychiatry consultations for regional and rural Australians 
  • $24.7 million to trials of new models of care aimed at addressing rural and regional healthcare workforce shortages
  • $8.4 million to fund more hospital-based training posts for rural doctors
  • $5.6 million to provide more rural primary care rotations for junior doctors

Agriculture, water, and disaster preparedness

A Better Plan for Forestry and Forest Products – $204.8 million over five years from 2022-23 to support industry training, research and development to improve innovation and encourage sustainable growth in Australia’s timber production. Includes: $100 million over five years to establish the Australia-wide National Institute for Forest Products and Innovation, and $86.5 million for grants to support the establishment of new forestry plantations.

Bolstering Australia’s Biosecurity System – $134.1 million over four years from 2022-23 to improve biosecurity capability in Australia. Includes: $61.6 million over two years to strengthen frontline biosecurity capability, $46.7 million to improve on-farm biosecurity measures, $14.0 million to improve Australia’s biosecurity systems and provide support to neighbouring states, and $11.7 million over four years for expanded detector dog capability.

Improving Drought Readiness, Resilience and Preparedness – $20.8 million over two years from 2022-23 to support drought readiness, including $14.3 million over two years for drought resilience research and $6.6 million over two years to maintain existing drought resilience capability.

Disaster Ready Fund – $630.4 million over four years from 2022-23 to strengthen national disaster resilience. Includes: up to $200 million per year from 2023-24 for the Disaster Ready Fund to co-contribute towards resilience projects nominated by state and territory governments, and $30.4 million in 2022-23 to implement disaster resilience initiatives across 30 LGAs.

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