Regions tell Barnaby Joyce they need workers, homes and childcare before they have budgeted infrastructure

Tuesday night’s federal budget included a whopping $20 billion for regional Australia, but some local mayors and voters say the lion’s share of it isn’t intended to be diverted to ports, roads and dams.

For example, $280 million has been set aside for infrastructure work at Lumsden Point in Port Hedland in Western Australia.

Port Hedland Mayor Peter Carter welcomed the money but said it could be difficult to get the job done given the dire shortages of labour, housing and childcare in the Pilbara.

“We need so many houses, we are so far behind the ball. I mean, which comes first, the chicken or the egg?’ he said.

North and Central Queensland are also overloaded with infrastructure money.

Peter Carter welcomed the funding for his region, but says housing and childcare should have been addressed.ABC news: Eliza Borrello

But in Tannum Sands, south of Gladstone, single mother Melanie Richardson feared she would soon be homeless as the National Rental Affordability Scheme ended.

“As everyone knows, there is no community housing,” she said.

Turbocharged regions already turbocharged

The regional budget war chest comes in the wake of Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce who reluctantly agrees to support the federal government’s goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The new funding adds to the billions of dollars in regional investments announced in this year’s federal budget, including:

  • $7 billion for new dams
  • An additional $2 billion for the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (NAIF)
  • $1.3 billion for telecommunications, including $811 million for mobile connectivity
  • $2 billion for existing measures to boost regional production and education

A staggering $7.1 billion was earmarked for “turbocharging” four regions, which the government recognizes as “creating wealth” for the nation.

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They include the Pilbara, Northern and Central Queensland, the Northern Territory, and the Hunter region of New South Wales.

Shadow Minister for Infrastructure Catherine King has not failed to notice that seats in some of these regions will be hotly contested in the upcoming federal elections.

“We know that the National Party and the Morrison administration have taken shape when it comes to pork barrels in the context of an election campaign,” she said.

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