How the Coalition Government’s policies will affect regional Australians.

 With the uncertainty over the recent election result now over, the Coalition is poised to deliver on its policy proposals – but what will this mean for regional Australians?

As the engine room of our economy, regional Australia is critical to the nation’s prosperity, accounting for around 65 per cent of our export earnings, and being a major source of domestic and international tourism.

Regional Australia has long been a stronghold for the Coalition – and while there’s been growing dissatisfaction over a stagnant response to environmental issues, coal seam gas, mining, drought, infrastructure development and foreign land-ownership, regional communities nevertheless stand to benefit from the Coalition’s economic plan.

Here are the latest insights to help you understand how Coalition policies are likely to affect regional Australia in particular, as well as coverage on proposed policies in other relevant areas like housing affordability, tax, education and the NBN.

 

Regional issues

The Government’s Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job programme will help jobseekers relocate to take a job or apprenticeship in regional Australia. The scheme offers up to $6,000 for those who do, plus an extra $3000 when relocating with dependent children.

While some regions have been impacted by the slowdown in mining, falling commodity prices and changes to the manufacturing sector, the Coalition plans to boost jobs, investment and growth in regional Australia through a $200 million Regional Jobs and Investment package (with a further $200 million or more leveraged in matched funding). This will incentivise local businesses to invest and employ, and enable regional communities to upgrade local infrastructure and deliver new skills and training programmes.

The Coalition remains committed to boosting Australia’s productivity, jobs and exports by building a strong agriculture sector. The recent $4 billion Agriculture White Paper will support jobs growth, drive export opportunities for agricultural businesses and encourage investment, to ensure Australia remains a globally competitive agriculture producer. Commitments include a $200 million increase in biosecurity funding, $190 million for rural research and development, $100 million for pest and weed management, a $2.5 billion concessional loan programme for farmers, and a $500 million National Water Infrastructure Fund to provide farmers with future water security.

With farmers across the country battling drought – some for a fifth consecutive year – almost $1 billion in loans will be allocated. The Coalition will continue to rely on income support payments, concessional loans, and various tax incentives designed to ‘help farmers help themselves’.

It’s proposed that a new national body to administer the Commonwealth's concessional loans programs will be created, taking administration away from the states.

The Government's Black Spot Program aims to fix at least 499 of the 6,000 identified mobile phone black spots across the country. $160 million has already been allocated, along with a further $60 million now that the Coalition has been re-elected.

Housing affordability

The Coalition has stated it will increase supply through land releases, pledging to work with state and local governments to get more released to developers, so that as more properties are built, price growth will slow.

A ‘Smart Cities Plan’ aims to create 30-minute cities, where Australians can more easily live, work and socialise, with better roads and public transport.

Negative gearing changes have been ruled out, echoing the real estate industry’s argument that it will hurt mum-and-dad investors and push up rents.

Taxes

The small business tax rate will drop 1 per cent to 27.5 per cent. To qualify, a small business will be redefined as having turnover of less than $10 million – which is five times the current level.

The upper limit for the middle tax bracket will be raised from $80,000 to $87,000, providing tax breaks for middle-income earners.

Superannuation

The Government plans to increase the tax on contributions from 15 to 30 per cent for those earning more than $250,000 a year.

For the over 60s, the Government plans to limit the pot of superannuation they can hold where the earnings (ie. profits from investments) go tax free.

Health

An estimated additional $2.9 billion in funding has been allocated for public hospital services, with growth in Commonwealth funding capped at 6.5 per cent a year– although it’s well short of the $7.9 billion in additional funding the Liberals committed to in the 2013 election.

The incentive paid to pathology companies to encourage them to bulk bill patients will be scrapped.

 

Families

The Coalition has pushed up the tax threshold on the middle tax bracket to keep full time average wage earners on the lower rate for longer. It means that hardworking Australians can do more overtime, pick up extra shifts and take a promotion or a better new job, without being penalised by paying more tax through the higher rate.

Family Tax Benefit B (a means-tested payment for single-parent families and families with one income of $100,000 a year or less, delivering a maximum of $153 per family a fortnight) will be scrapped for couples when their youngest child turns 13.

Both Family Tax Benefit B and Family Tax Benefit A (a means-tested payment for families with dependent children, delivering a maximum of $234 per child per fortnight) will be gradually phased out by 2018.

 

Childcare

A new $3 billion package will see subsidies streamlined into one means-tested payment. The lowest-income families will receive the highest subsidy, covering up to 85 per cent of costs, gradually tapering to 50 per cent for families earning $170,000 a year or more.

A $3 billion Jobs for Families childcare package will make child care simpler, more affordable and more accessible for close to one million Australian families. It means that families with incomes of between $65,000 and $170,000 will be around $30 a week – or $1,500 a year – better off.

 

Education

Around $2 billion in cuts to higher education remain on the books.

The Coalition will fund the first four years of Gonski and has committed another $1.2 billion from 2018 to 2020.

The Government's previous policy to fully deregulate university fees has been scrapped.

 

Environment

The Coalition plans to cut carbon emissions by 26–28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

They prefer a ‘direct action’ approach to a fixed price on carbon, where $2.55 billion in taxes will be paid to companies who undertake projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Coalition has promised that more than 20 per cent of electricity will come from renewable sources by 2020.

The Regional Forest Agreements for the timber industry will be rolled over for another 20 years.

The Coalition has committed $210 million to tackle issues on the reef including reducing run-off and managing coral bleaching events.

They will also divert $1 billion for loans for clean energy projects that improve water quality by reducing pollutant and fertiliser run-off, and limiting discharge from sewage treatment plants.

The NBN

The Coalition’s controversial ‘multi-technology’ National Broadband Network has blown out to $56 billion, but will be finished by 2020.

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