The Federal Government has made a play to shore up its regional base, through major commitments to infrastructure projects designed to make living in the country easier and more prosperous.

Key points:

  • $8.4 billion for inland freight rail linking Melbourne to Brisbane
  • $20 million for business cases that provide faster regional rail connections
  • No new money for mobile blackspots or tackling the data drought
  • $472 million for a Regional Growth Fund to boost regional economies
  • Crackdown on welfare recipients and jobseekers

The Treasurer Scott Morrison is concerned some regional areas have been “disconnected from national growth” and wants that to change. But those already doing it tough might find this budget makes life harder thanks to a welfare crackdown.

The Treasurer also flagged the Commonwealth has big plans for Snowy Hydro 2.0, such as buying the project outright from the New South Wales and Victorian state governments.

What’s the bottom line: is inland rail going ahead

Overall the government will invest $20 billion in rail projects across Australia.

As revealed by the ABC, the government will invest $8.4 billion in the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) for an inland freight rail line from Melbourne to Brisbane.

Given the money is framed as an ‘investment’, it stays off the budget books, making it difficult to find out when money will be spent.

Additional borrowings from the ARTC will go towards a public-private partnership to build 126 kilometres of track from Toowoomba to Kagaru in south-east Queensland.

Farmers will welcome such a massive contribution, given their current freights costs can be double that of international competitors.

What about passengers?

The government has established a new $10 billion National Rail Program to improve passenger rail in cities and better connect them to the bush.

More reliable rail services could boost regional economies, by allowing easier access to jobs, health services and affordable housing.

Of the $10 billion, Victoria gets more than $1 billion, half of which will go to projects earmarked for development in the state’s regions.

The government has also allocated $20 million to states and businesses who come up with new ideas for faster regional rail connections.

Is there anything besides rail in here for regional Australia?

Yes, but arguably the farm sector’s biggest budget infrastructure wish hasn’t been granted.

There is no new money for mobile phone blackspots. There is also no new money for regional Australia’s much maligned data drought.

But the government’s push to boost regional economies in the budget includes a $472 million Regional Growth Fund.

The Treasurer Scott Morrison described it as a way to “back in the plans that regional communities are making to take control of their own economic future”.

Part of that money includes $200 million for the Building Better Regions Program, which funds projects like sports stadiums and roads.

The remaining money in the fund could go towards infrastructure projects like tourism ventures and new developments.

(TTN note: omitted for expediency are the subheaders ‘Budget 2017: Farmers’, ‘What will the welfare changes mean?’ ‘What about health: is this budget going to improve medical services in my town?’and ‘Anything I should know about education spending?’ Click here for full text of “Federal budget 2017: What it means for people living in regional Australia”