2020 Federal Budget: Highlights for the Regions

The Federal Budget has been released and there is plenty to digest. Understanding where funding is being committed can help you make decisions and strategise. For a full copy of the statement see Growing a Strong and Resilient Regional Australia a statement. We have summarised the highlights for regional Australia.

BACKING OUR REGIONS

Funding will flow directly to support stronger, more resilient regions through the following initiatives:

  • An additional $200 million to extend the successful Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) for a fifth round, including:
  • $100 million available across regional Australia for community priorities
  • $100 million dedicated for tourism infrastructure in regions significantly affected by the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry.
  • $100 million to fund Regional Recovery Partnerships, which will coordinate investments in ten identified priority regions with other levels of government to support recovery and growth.
  • $41 million for a Research and Development Program to continue the Government’s regional decentralisation agenda, by funding research and development activities that will benefit regional industries.
  • An additional $30.3 million for the Regional Connectivity Program to support telecommunications projects developed by local communities and providers to benefit regions. This will boost overall funding to $83 million, to support faster internet speeds outside the National Broadband Network fixed-line footprint.
  • An additional $28.1 million to extend the Stronger Communities Program, which provides grants of between $2,500 and $20,000 across the country to community organisations and local governments for small capital projects that deliver social benefits for local communities.
  • $5.7 million in a new Building Stronger, Resilient Regional Leaders initiative

BUILDING WATER INFRASTRUCTURE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

The Government is building on its existing investment in water infrastructure projects with an additional $2 billion in funding for new projects through the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund. This more than doubles the funding to a total of $3.5 billion and will deliver increased water security, build resilience in our regions, deliver jobs and grow the countries critical agriculture sectors.

This additional commitment will help identify and build the dams, weirs, pipelines, water recycling plants and other projects that will deliver the National Water Grid – a series of region-specific systems that will help secure reliable supplies of water for rural and regional Australia now and into the future.

SECURING A STRONG, SUSTAINABLE AND COMPETITIVE AVIATION INDUSTRY

Following the sudden and drastic capacity cuts by airlines in the initial response to COVID-19, the Australian Government moved quickly to re-establish minimum levels of aviation connectivity. Measures funded include:

  • $165 million Domestic Aviation Network Support Program
  • $198 million over two years from 2019-20 for the Regional Airline Network Support Program
  • $100 million Regional Airlines Funding Assistance Program
  • $66 million in 2020-21 for the Regional Airports Screening Infrastructure Program.

TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE

The Government’s $110 billion transport infrastructure program will support local jobs and businesses at the time it is needed most.

Funding is being delivered to critical transport infrastructure projects in every state and territory, including:

  • $41.6 million for the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway – Emu Rocks on the Port Augusta to Perth Corridor in Western Australia
  • $2 billion towards road safety initiatives, continuing efforts to reduce road trauma in Australia. This investment will deliver an estimated 3,000 kilometres of lifesaving road improvements and support around 9,000 jobs across the country. This additional investment builds on the $500 million we are already delivering for Targeted Road Safety Works.
  • An additional $1 billion over two years for local governments for the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program which builds on the initial $500 million announced in May 2020.

COMMUNICATIONS AND ARTS

More Australians than ever are working, learning and socialising on the internet. The key measures for the communications, cyber safety and arts portfolio include:

  • $4.5 billion for NBN Co to bring ultra-fast broadband to millions of families and businesses
  • $37.1 million Strengthening Telecommunications Against Natural Disasters Package to prevent, mitigate and manage telecommunications outages during emergencies.
  • $1.8 million in grant funding for Wireless Internet Service Providers to improve connectivity in the Western Australian Grain belt.

NEW INITIATIVES IN OTHER PORTFOLIOS

Busting Congestion for Agricultural Exporters

The Australian Government is providing $328.4 million over four years from 2020-21 to reform export systems and regulation and contribute to the goal of $100 billion in farmgate production by 2030. The suite of reforms is aimed to accelerate trade growth as agriculture recovers from drought, bushfires and COVID-19. The package includes:

  • $222.2 million for Digital Services to Take Farmers to Markets, which will modernise Australia’s agricultural export system
  • $14.3 million for improving regulation including Targeted Interventions for Seafood and Live Animal Exporters
  • $10.9 million for Building a More Competitive Export Meat Industry to reform the export meat regulatory system
  • $10 million for Harmonised and Streamlined Plant Export Regulation to simplify processes to support plant production exports

Bureau of Meteorology – Improved Security and Resilience

Funding of $254.6 million will be provided over four years from 2020-21 to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the Bureau of Meteorology.

Other initiatives

  • $190 million over four years from 2020-21 to a new Recycling Modernisation Fund.
  • An additional $2 billion in loan funding to the Regional Investment Corporation in July 2020 for the 2020-21 financial year to double the farm and small business loan funds.

DEFENCE

On 26 August 2020, the Australian Government announced a $1 billion investment package to boost Australia’s defence industry and support jobs across Australia. Included in this package is:

  • $300 million for a national estate works program that will help support the construction industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on regional areas

EDUCATION

Higher Education Reform

Funding to support increased higher education access and attainment for regional Australians and to support higher education providers in regional Australia grow their local economies including:

  • $21 million over four years from 2020-21 (and $79.4 million over 10 years to 2030-31) to strengthen the Regional University Centres program by establishing a central support network, evaluation program and additional centres throughout regional Australia.
  • $48.8 million over four years from 2020-21 (and $195.4 million by 2030-31) to establish new partnerships between regional universities and other higher education providers or local industry to undertake innovation research projects.

Supporting Apprentices and Trainees

  • The $1.2 billion Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy is a 50 per cent wage subsidy to all businesses who take on new apprentices from 5 October 2020 and will support 100,000 new apprentices and is available until 30 September 2021.
  • $2.8 billion Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy to help businesses keep apprentices and trainees employed.
  • $62.8 million to 30 June 2022, for the Local Jobs Program which will be rolled out in 25 regions across Australia, including regional areas.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE

Measures under the $1 billion Relief and Recovery Fund

  • $50 million over two years from 2020-21 through the Recovery for Regional Tourism package to assist Australian regions that are most reliant on international visitors.
  • $317 million to extend the International Freight Assistance Mechanism until 30 June 2021. This is in addition to over $350 million already invested since 1 April 2020.

TOURISM

In 2020-21 the Australian Government will deliver funding of $191.9 million to Tourism Australia. An additional $39.7 million has been authorised, bringing Tourism Australia’s total available funding to $231.6 million. Of this funding, $29.5 million has been specifically allocated to support those regions both directly and indirectly impacted by last summer’s bushfires.

From a domestic perspective, Tourism Australia will roll out the next iteration of its Holiday Here This Year campaign, which seeks to galvanise Australians to support the tourism industry and help businesses get back on their feet by booking a domestic holiday if they have the means to. The campaign will continue to showcase some of the worst-hit bushfire areas, along with popular tourism destinations that have been badly impacted as a result of widespread and negative media coverage of the bushfires and of COVID-19. Upcoming campaign activity will feature several regional destinations and icons, such as Uluru, and the Great Barrier Reef. Tourism Australia’s international activity will also feature content initiatives that showcase several regional destinations, including Esperance, Western Australia.

HEALTH

New Initiatives

  • $50.3 million over four years from 2020-21 on the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training Program to build the rural training pipeline for allied health students and graduates to deliver health, aged care and disability services in rural communities.
  • $125 million from 2020-21 to 2024-25 for the Rural, Regional and Remote Clinical Trial Enabling, Infrastructure Program to improve the health of Australians in rural, remote and regional areas through access to innovative clinical trials.

HOME AFFAIRS

Migration and Humanitarian Programs 2020-21

The Migration Program will benefit regional communities through focussing on job-creating migrants and those who fill critical needs and contribute to economic recovery. The planning ceiling of 160,000 places will be retained in 2020-21 with increased flexibility to shift skilled places to adapt to changing labour market and economic needs and will continue to include both regional components and state and territory nominated positions, which are frequently located in regional areas.

INDUSTRY, SCIENCE, ENERGY AND RESOURCES

Modern Manufacturing Strategy

Manufacturing is critical to a modern Australian economy and to economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. It has an important role in many supply chains and adds significant value to all sectors. New initiatives in the 2020-21 budget include:

  • $1.3 billion over four years from 2020-21 to establish the Modern Manufacturing Imitative
  • $107.2 million over four years from 2020-21 for the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative
  • $52.8 million over three years from 2020-21 for the expansion of the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund
  • $124.5 million over four years from 2020-21 to continue and expand the Exploring for the Future program (Exploring for the Future 2)
  • $35.9 million over five years from 2020-21 for the expansion of the Boosting Female Founders Initiative
  • $200 million for Implementing Australia’s Fuel Storage Program which will be a competitive grant program to help industry to transition to holding higher diesel stock levels.
  • $74.5 million for the Future Fuels Package with one of the measures enabling businesses to integrate new vehicle technologies using electricity, hydrogen or biofuels into their fleets.
  • $70.2 million over five years from 2020-21 for a grants program to boost Australia’s hydrogen industry through creation of a regional hydrogen export hub.
  • $50 million for the Carbon Capture, Use and Storage (CCUS) Development Fund. Deployment of CCUS has the potential to create not only jobs for regional Australian but also support innovative business opportunities in regional areas.
  • To support the Western Australia State Deal, $13.5 million will fund a WA-based microgrid program for remote communities, supporting the WA Government to extend an existing program to deliver solutions across remote Aboriginal communities and regional towns.
  • $53.6 million over six years from 2020-21 to extend the Regional and Remote communities Reliability Fund to support pilot studies for microgrids in regional and remote areas.

PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET

  • $150 million over three years from 2020-21 to Indigenous Business Australia for Regional Construction Stimulus towards new construction home loans in regional Australia.

SOCIAL SERVICES

  • $150 million for the Domestic Violence Support Package which was announced on 29 March 2020.
  • $256.6 million over two years from 2020-21 to deliver the expansion of Digital Identity which is a single secure, trusted and consistent way to verify identity online, through the digital equivalent of a 100-point ID check.
  • $16.3 million over two years from 2020-21 to create temporary incentives in the income support system to encourage recent school leavers to undertake seasonal horticultural work and help address the expected critical workforce shortages across the industry for the upcoming harvest season.

BUSINESS EVENTS GRANTS PROGRAM

  • $50 million in the Business Events Grants Program to generate demand for events, conferences and trade exhibitions, including those in regional Australia. The Program stimulates jobs in tourism and other sectors of the economy by encouraging Australians to undertake domestic business travel, and shop and spend locally when safe to do so, including for events held in regional Australia. It will improve connectivity with regional Australia by growing people-to-people links, innovation through the sharing of ideas, and the facilitation of direct business-to-business economic cooperation. The pivoting of businesses to the domestic market will support regional businesses in sectors that have had international markets disrupted, which are disproportionately represented in regional Australia.