The Economic and Fiscal Update today has demonstrated two very important things.
The first is the full scale of how COVID-19 has affected Australia’s finances.
The second is that regional Australia has remained front and centre of the Government’s response to the pandemic, with unprecedented support delivered to local communities.
The support we have put in place has kept regional Australians in jobs and regional businesses in business.
It has kept communities going, it has kept livelihoods in place.
When I was in Port Macquarie last week, small business owner Jamie Harrison told me our Government’s support helped him buy new machinery, ensuring his business could pull through.
The measures we’ve taken, including through the $85.7 billion JobKeeper Payment, have saved 700,000 jobs that otherwise would have been lost.
The impact to the Budget bottom-line is significant, but we will continue doing everything possible to ensure regional Australians get through this pandemic.
Our nation-wide support has amounted to around $289 billion – which is 14.6 per cent of GDP. The Nationals in Government have been focused on driving this investment into regional Australia, including our $1 billion package to support communities and industries hit hardest by the pandemic.
We have spent $110 million to help our Aussie exporters get their products overseas by reducing the cost of air freight, $36 million to provide support to agricultural show societies and almost $5 million to help regional small businesses access financial counselling.
We’ve also provided more assistance to support those who have lost their job, including through the extension of an increase to JobSeeker and with a $2 billion investment to give Australians access to retraining and upskilling in sectors where job opportunities will bounce back quickest.
We know the infrastructure portfolio will be a significant contributor to the economic road back and that’s why we have announced $3.8 billion for infrastructure investment to stimulate the economy and create jobs, as part of this Economic and Fiscal Update.
In May, nearly 30,000 jobs were advertised in regional Australia, showing the foundation of our country’s economic recovery will be built in our regions. When the jobs return, our communities will benefit first.
We mourn for those 133 families who have lost a loved one to COVID-19. Our thoughts are with every person affected by this disease, whether it is the health consequences of the illness, or the economic cost.
The Nationals in Government will continue working to secure regional Australia’s future.