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A budget for the regions, says Hogan

The local community was a winner from this year’s budget with the government investing heavily in regional infrastructure, according to Page MP Kevin Hogan. “The injection of $200 million for the Building Better Regions Fund to almost $500 million is great news for our community. This program has previously funded local projects like the upgrade of Harwood Sugar Mill, improvements to the Casino Saleyard, the new Lismore Regional Art Gallery and the sealing of the access road to Toonumbar Dam,” he said. “These projects are transforming our economy and creating local jobs for local people. “I am also very happy that the Government is investing almost $70 million in the Stronger Communities Program that provide smaller grants that can deliver real benefits to communities like ours. “The budget also provides almost $700 million this year alone towards the completion of the duplication of the Pacific Highway, plus more funding to replace our aging wooden bridges and road upgrades on top of more than $10 million to our local councils to maintain and repair local roads. “We will continue to fix mobile blackspots with $220 million allocated to our Mobile Black Spot Program. “Indexation of Financial Assistance Grants to councils has also been restored and six-months of payments will be brought forward and paid this financial year. “We have also managed to find money to lift the freeze on the Medicare rebates to doctors and reverse the removal of the bulk billing incentive for diagnostic imaging and pathology services and the increase in the PBS co-payment. “The Government has also delivered on its promise to cut taxes for small businesses which will help create new jobs. “In one of the biggest investments in regional Australia, the Government will fund the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project by the tune of $8.4 billion, which means our local producers will be able to get their products to the big capital city markets. “Nationally, big national building projects like Snowy 2.0 will create energy security to help keep power prices lower. “The $18.6 billion injection into education will see each and every one of our local schools get more money which means our children will get the education they deserve. “Importantly, all this is being done will bringing the budget into surplus within the next four years, partly through imposing a $6.2 billion levy on the five big banks. “Older Australians are also being supported with the restoration of the pensioner concession card to those affected by the pension asset test change introduced earlier this year. “We will also continue to strengthen our borders to keep Australians safe with increased spending on defence and $300 million in additional funding for the Australian Federal Police. “Importantly, the Government has delivered a suit of measures to help first home-buyers purchase their first homes, including incentives to help save deposit and providing $1 billion to build crucial infrastructure to unlock the supply of residential land. “Our local community will also benefit from the $1.5 billion that will go to the state governments, which when matched, will support up to 300,000 apprentices, trainees and pre-apprentices that will be targeted towards regional and rural areas. “While we continue to support people into jobs, we will also strengthen mutual obligations requirement with penalties for those not turning up for appointments or refusing suitable work. “We will also introduce a drug testing trial for 5000 new welfare recipients with those who test positive placed on a Cashless Debit Card for their welfare payments and be subjected to further tests and possible referral for treatment. “This is important for helping those who have a drug problem to kick the habit and get into work.”