The latest federal budget has been announced and while there’s no big surprises for the Northern Rivers there’s plenty which will benefit our local industry and create employment.
Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg promoted this budget as a budget for economic recovery. Investment in infrastructure has been a priority with $1 billion being invested in roads through local government. These are much needed funds to support our regional councils to maintain roads.
The Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF) is also getting a boost with an extra $200 million to be invested in regional infrastructure projects. In recognition of the devastating effect of COVID-19 on the tourism industry, half of these funds will be dedicated to tourism related infrastructure. The Stronger Communities Programme, which funds small capital projects, is also being boosted with an additional $28.1 million.
Identified projects being undertaken in our region include:
- Mt Lindsay Road – Legume to Woodenbong – $12 million Australian Government investment
- Pacific Highway – Woolgoolga to Ballina – $4 billion Australian Government investment
- Kyogle Bridges Package – $4 million Australian Government investment
Skills and Employment
RDA Northern Rivers supports the focus on helping young Australians into the workforce. Youth employment pathways is a priority of this budget with a range of initiatives aimed at supporting training and reskilling of the workforce.
An investment of $1.2 billion will fund 100,000 new apprenticeships through the Boosting Apprenticeships Commencements wage subsidy, available to businesses of any size. A new Apprenticeships Data Management system will be created to better support the needs of employers and apprentices to recover from COVID-19. A further 450,000 young job seekers and employers will benefit from the back-to-work subsidy payment of up to $200 per week for those under 30 and $100 for those aged 30-35.
Other skills initiatives include an additional 14,485 places for Skills for Education and Employment places, to support basic language, literacy and numeracy skills for job seekers and cuts to fees and charges for VET programs.
Employment specific initiatives include extending and streamlining existing programs. The Northern Rivers is one of 25 identified regions that will benefit from the $62.8 million Local Jobs Program, which will focus on reskilling, upskilling and employment pathways to assist people back into the workforce. An investment of over $26 million for relocation assistance and support for Pacific and Timorese workers will provide welcome support for employment in our agricultural industry.
In addition to the $100 million allocated for tourism infrastructure from the BBRF, a $50 million Regional Tourism Recovery initiative will support regional tourism operators who have lost international markets due to the pandemic adapt their offerings, experiences and marketing to attract the domestic market.
Creative Industries and Communications
The budget has good news for the Australian screen industry with an additional $33 million pledged to Screen Australia for Australian screen content. This will see an additional $30 million over two years for Australian film and television drama, children’s and documentary production and $3 million over three years establish a competitive grants program for Australian scriptwriting and script development.
Investment through NBN Co will provide higher internet speeds on the NBN network with a co-investment of $4.5 billion. An additional $700 million will enable nine in 10 businesses to order high-speed fibre broadband at no upfront cost as NBN Co rolls out 240 Business Fibre Zones nationwide, including Ballina and Lismore.
Other initiatives in the budget include:
- $30.3 million national Regional Connectivity Program will help improve telecommunications in the region
- $41 million Research and Development Program will support R&D activities, benefitting regional industry
- $5.7 million Building Strong Resilient Leaders initiative
- Additional 14,485 places Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program to support basic language, literacy and numeracy skills for job seekers
- $5 million to Regional Australia Institute to promote regional living
- $300 million to help modernise Australia’s agricultural export systems.
RDA Northern Rivers will continue to work with government agencies, businesses, individuals and organisations to support access to these services and programs.