Australian government accused of neglecting regions

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Simon Crean, Shadow Minister for Regional Development, has accused the Howard Government of abandoning regional development and showing no commitment to rural Australia. In a media release timed to coincide with the ten-year anniversary of the Howard Government, Mr. Crean said that the privatisation of Telstra and a failure to reform the Regional Partnerships program demonstrated the governments lack of commitment to the bush.

"The Minister for Transport and Regional Services has failed to clean up the Regional Partnerships program, four months after a Senate Inquiry recommended major changes," he said. "AU$1.1 million dollars spent on the Gunnedah Grains to Ethanol project has been wasted - it still hasn't produced a single litre of ethanol. Likewise Beaudesert Rail, the recipient of $5.7 million in Government grants, has not travelled a single kilometre."

Regional Partnerships program provides government assistance for projects in regional areas. According to a government media release, there is $360.9 million available under this program for the period 2005-06 to 2008-09.

Mr Crean also criticised the National party for "[selling out] rural and regional Australia - on Telstra, on trade and on essential services."

"Last week's revelation that Telstra plans to get rid of 5000 payphones after privatisation show the serial contempt of the Bush by the Coalition."

The Minister for Transport and Regional Services, Warren Truss, has distanced himself from the Telstra announcement, saying that Telstra has an obligation to maintain services. "Certainly, there is a still a demand for payphones around Australia. Telstra are expected to provide those kinds of services," he said.

"I think the time will come when we will move on to new technology and some of those systems that were more important in the past will be less important in the future but there are still many Australians who still depend on payphones and community telephone systems. Telstra has an obligation to provide those."

Warren Truss' office was contacted to provide a response to Mr. Crean's criticisms, but had not responded by the time this article was published.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.