Amid the change of Liberal leadership and Prime Ministership, the Nationals turned a regrettable situation into a positive one for regional Australia and my home state of Victoria.
The Nationals team, led by Leader Warren Truss, and Deputy Barnaby Joyce, negotiated a new Coalition agreement with Prime Minister Turnbull that benefits regional families, businesses, farmers and communities.
It covers a broad range of policy areas including:
Transferring responsibility for water policy from the Environment to Agriculture portfolio;
• Implementing a plan to overcome financial barriers experienced by rural, remote and regional students in accessing higher education;
• Proper consideration by Cabinet of amendments of the Australian Competition Consumer Act to prevent abuse of market power including an `effects test’ to protect small business;
• Ongoing funding to improve regional communications and fix mobile phone and television black spots;
• A new jobs program targeting high regional unemployment;
• Provide additional support for stay-at-home parent families with a child below the age of one;
• Continued commitment to the government’s Infrastructure Investment Program including the Inland Rail;
• Support for the Agriculture and Northern Australia White Papers and our Dams Implementation policy; and
• Maintaining the Liberal-National Coalition Government’s existing policies on climate change, carbon taxes/emissions reduction targets, and referring the same sex marriage issue to a plebiscite of the people next term.
The agreement delivers on continued investment on infrastructure and communications and ensures skilled and educated communities in our regions. And it aims to protect small business from abuse of powerful monopolies, allowing them to thrive and expand.
As chair of the senate Education and Employment Legislation committee, I am especially pleased that there’s a real commitment to making higher education more accessible for regional students. These challenges were profoundly obvious at the recent forums I attended across the country.
I am proud to be part of the Nationals team, who are committed to delivering good outcomes critical to the social and economic future of regional Australia.
Senator Bridget McKenzie, Nationals Senator for Victoria, formerly Leongatha