I enjoyed the minister's contribution. I also have to make the comment that he is the third minister for regional development in three months! So committed are they to regional development that they've had a rotating door of regional development ministers, because they can't make up their minds! While these parlour games have been going on, inequality in regional Australia is growing. Not only is inequality growing between the cities and the bush; it is growing within the bush as well.
While health and life expectancy outcomes are going backward in regional Australia, while incomes are going backward in regional Australia and while education outcomes are going backward in regional Australia, we have members of the National Party and Liberal-Country Party members coming into this parliament and acting like Liberal lapdogs and voting in favour of every single Liberal Party proposal that holds a knife to the throats of the people that they are supposed to represent. Well, Labor doesn't believe that this is the right thing to do by people in regional Australia. We think that the current facade that is going on in the National Party room has to stop. It has to stop.
Before question time today we called on the Prime Minister to do the right thing. If the members of the National Party can't make up their minds about who is going to be the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia on Friday then the Prime Minister must step in and do something. We've got the deputy leader who says that 100 per cent of the members of the National Party caucus are behind the Deputy Prime Minister. Well, we know that is not true. We know that the Minister for Veterans' Affairs has the numbers, even though he doesn't have the ticker to do the right thing by his party and by the people of regional Australia. He's got the numbers, but he doesn't have the ticker. Perhaps the bulldog—the member for Flynn—is the guy who's going to push him off the line. Didn't he give a leadership-type performance during question time today!
The real tragedy of this is that the people of regional Australia cannot wait for the hapless lapdogs of the Liberal Party in the National Party room to make up their minds about the future direction of this country. Already there is $500 million—that's right: over half a billion dollars—worth of projects in regional Australia that have stalled because these jokers can't make up their minds and they're too distracted.
The members opposite cannot make up their minds, so the people in regional Australia are having to suffer. The minister mentioned the Regional Growth Fund—$270 million was promised nearly 12 months ago. There are no guidelines and not a cent has flowed from this fund, because the members opposite, and particularly the National Party members opposite, cannot make up their minds. They are so distracted by their own internal intrigue and their own problems that they can't even issue guidelines to their own fund to ensure that the people of Australia can have their projects funded.
On the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages that the minister mentioned: $220 million worth of funds earmarked to kickstart jobs investment projects in regional Australia. Eight of the 10 projects have not yet even started, because these guys are so tied up with their own internal problems that they can't get around to the job that they're paid to do. He mentioned decentralisation—well, there is a fraud if ever Australians have seen one.
They talk about decentralisation at the same time as they are axing public sector jobs from regional Australia. I present Townsville as one example, but we also know that it is happening in Tasmania, and I'm sure the Tasmanian representatives will talk about that. Jobs were cut from CSIRO, jobs were cut from the tax office and jobs were cut from the Department of Defence—40 from Townsville in the last week alone, and over 400 since this government came to power. The people of Australia know a fraud when they see one. As I said before, it is time for the Prime Minister to end the farce.
The battle between the Hatfields and the McCoys has to stop. The people of regional Australia need something better than this. The Prime Minister needs to step in. The Deputy Prime Minister needs to be axed. If the National Party can't do it, the Prime Minister should.