Minister for Rural Health, Sport and Regional Communications Bridget McKenzie said the Australian Government was committed to working with all levels of government to improve health, physical activity and communications outcomes for people living in regional Australia.
Speaking at the Australian Local Government Association’s Annual General Assembly, Minister McKenzie said access to high quality health services, high speed broadband, reliable mobile services and local sporting facilities were key priorities for the Government.
“Last month the Australian Government handed down a Budget that included the largest overhaul of the health workforce in decades,” Minister McKenzie said.
“This is a historic change that will give all Australians access to the right mix of qualified health professionals, in the right place and at the right time.
“We’re committed to providing 21st century communications to people living in regional and remote Australia and we’re investing more in telecommunications infrastructure than ever before,” she said.
The Government has committed $220 million under the Mobile Black Spot Program to build 867 base stations that will extend new and improved mobile coverage to thousands of blackspot locations across Australia.
“The program will see a total of $680 million through co-investment with the carriers, state and local governments,” Minister McKenzie said.
“And the National Broadband Network is reaching more and more Australians every day, providing access to affordable high-speed broadband that will help Australians learn, stay connected and run their businesses.”
Approximately 93 per cent of all homes and businesses outside major urban areas can now either order NBN services or have new network construction underway.
Recent research estimates that access to the NBN will foster the creation of up to 80,000 new businesses across Australia by 2021.
The rollout is on track to be completed by 2020.
Minister McKenzie also reiterated the importance of the upcoming National Sports Plan and urged local governments to apply for community infrastructure grants to repair and update ageing and unsuitable local sports facilities.
“Much of the existing community sport infrastructure is based on historical footprints. They don’t meet current demand or needs, and are often in disrepair,” Minister McKenzie said.
“Simple improvements like lighting or expanded change room facilities – particularly for women and girls – can improve participation and lead to healthier and more active lifestyles.”
Details of the $29.7 million community infrastructure grants program will be available shortly.