We've got to do something this year about growing inequality in this country. It's a problem. The Prime Minister is blind to it, but the rest of parliament should not be. If you live in rural or regional Australia, chances are you are doing it tough. If you're in the top 20 per cent of income earners, you probably live in the city.
If you're in the bottom 20 per cent of income earners, you probably live in rural or remote Australia. That leads to life expectancy—there's a three-year gap in life expectancy between people who live in the bush and people who live in the city. It blows out to 10 years if you're looking at rural and remote Australia.
When the government set up the National Stronger Regions Fund in 2014 we thought it was a good idea, because it was targeted at addressing inequality between the city and the bush. There was $620 million to address growing inequality. Can you imagine our surprise when we learnt this week that 20 per cent of that funding has been diverted away from rural and regional projects to go to some of the wealthiest electorates in this country?
Nothing says rural and regional like the electorate of Kooyong, where they siphoned $3.2 million away from needy electorates to fund a project in the minister's electorate. In the electorate of Warringah, there was $10 million for a similar project. So we've got to do more, and the National Party needs to be more than a group of blokes in big hats—they've got to deliver for regional Australia.