LABOR has scrapped more than $9 billion in regional infrastructure funding in the federal budget - labelling it "Barnaby and Bridget money" - choosing instead to invest heavily in rural health, telecommunications, agriculture and the transition to net-zero.
The government reallocated unassigned money from two regional schemes, worth $7.1b and $2b respectively, reviewed the merit of projects with evidence supporting them and cancelled those with nothing underpinning them.
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The Energy Security and Regional Development Plan and the Regional Accelerator Scheme were negotiated by the Nationals in exchange for their support of the Coalition's climate policies, however many of the projects backed by the funds were criticised for lacking business plans.
"The departments knew them as 'the Barnaby money' or the 'Bridget money'," a senior minister said, referring to former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and former Regional Development Minister Bridget McKenzie.
"If [projects] stacked up, if there's rigour behind it, if it meets those tests of quality spending, we proceed with them. To be honest, some of the Barnaby money didn't have anything underneath it."
As the world begins the journey to net-zero emission, the government invested significant funding towards improving the resilience and sustainability of the agriculture sector.
To help the industry's transition, more than $300m will be used to support sustainable agriculture practices and land managers engaging in carbon and biodiversity markets.
A further $20m will be used to establish a Carbon Farming Outreach Program, giving landholders tailored advice about carbon markets and low emission technology, while $20.8m will be used to increase the adoption of established drought resilience research.
In keeping with the transition to net-zero theme, $8m will be invested towards commercialising low-emissions seaweed feed for livestock.
The funding also includes $46.7m to improve on-farm biosecurity and support the transition to a national livestock traceability system.
The budget follows similar themes to the Coalition's 2021 budget where soil health, carbon and biodiversity stewardship were touted as key new spending areas.
Other key features of the 2022 budget include the scrapping of the Agriculture Visa, saving the government $90m over five years, which is being replaced by a $67.5m upscale of the Pacific labour scheme, which will see the government underwrite the cost of flying in seasonal workers.
An inspector-general for animal welfare will be created with a $4m budget, $12.3m will support regional trade events such as Beef Australia in Rockhampton and the timber industry will get more than $200m for training, research and development.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers revealed an aspirational goal to build one million new homes over five years from 2024, with a large focus on affordable regional housing.
"Our overwhelming priority is for them to be where the job opportunities are and clearly, there are lots of job opportunities in regional Australia," Mr Chalmers said.
"Ideally, near public transport, near educational opportunities and near jobs so there's more work to do there but our intention is certainly not limited to the cities but right around Australia. We want to make the regions part of what we're doing here."
Regional telecommunications will have $1.1b set aside to help close the digital divide, including $600m to expand regional mobile coverage and connectivity.
The government will also inject $2.4b to expand the National Broadband Network, including full-fibre access for 660,00 regional houses.