In a marathon late night parliamentary binge attack on rural and regional Australia, the Rudd Labor Government has scrapped the $2.4 billion Communications Fund, increased fuel tax on transport, rejected moves to stop water being taken out of the Murray Darling Basin for Melbourne toilets and targeted country areas for the closure of analogue television.

Just six months after Labor’s first Budget where more than $1 billion was cut from rural and regional programs, Parliament saw a second night of the long knives last night, the Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Warren Truss, said today.

“The Nationals fought all night to try to make Labor see sense, but the Labor Party is locked into an ideological and undeclared war on rural and regional Australia,” Mr Truss said.

“It was frankly a disastrous night for the more than seven million Australians who live outside the capital cities.

“The decision to abolish the $2.4 billion Communications Fund, set up by the Coalition to future-proof rural and regional telecommunications, is a betrayal of the highest order. With the scrapping of the $958 million Opel broadband contract, country Australians are left with no funding to upgrade telecommunications services. They will be the very last
to receive faster broadband, if they receive it at all.

“Labor also passed the Road Charges Legislation Repeal and Amendment Bill 2008, effectively increasing the amount of fuel excise paid by Australia’s hard working truckies and bus operators by 1.4 cents a litre. The Opposition voted against this tax but could not block its passage. As a result, the price of food and everything we buy and use will go up.

The Government also refused to accept Opposition’s amendments to link the tax increase to the construction of roadside rest areas and the harmonisation of inefficient State-based transport regulations that makes life so hard for truckies moving goods interstate. 

“The Government has also passed legislation to target country areas with plans to close analogue television reception. Starting with Mildura, rural and regional people will bear the cost and inconvenience first and there is no funding provided to fix digital TV blackspots first.

“Earlier, Kevin Rudd effectively made the appalling North-South Pipeline in Victoria his own. Labor refused to accept Coalition amendments to stop this brazen attempt by the Victorian Government to pipe 75 billion litres of water a year from the parched Murray River system, which will be used to flush toilets in Melbourne.

“Kevin Rudd told us on election night that he would govern for all Australians. That promise obviously does not extend beyond the city limits,” Mr Truss said.    

Coober Pedy Regional Times