King's new role sees her in charge of RDAF, referendum

Catherine King is working within Cabinet and with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on a new regional policy to take to the election.
Catherine King is working within Cabinet and with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on a new regional policy to take to the election.

REGIONAL Australia's new federal minister has promised a dedicated policy for those living outside the major cities.

After a stint as Minister for Regional Services and a Parliament Secretary before that, Catherine King was one of several Labor MPs elevated to Cabinet this week.

Ms King said that after representing the Federal seat of Ballarat for the past 12 years, she saw herself "very much as a regional MP".

With her new roles, Ms King has taken on responsibility for the Regional Development Australia Fund, the regional department and the local government referendum.

And despite the limited amount of time left before the election, Ms King said she had "quite a lot of work to do".

She said there was still the $100 million Round Five of the RDAF to roll out across the country and work on the seeking a successful passage of the referendum.

"While the election date hasn't yet been set - that's a matter for the Prime Minister - I'm determined to be out there with local government, pushing for a successful yes vote," Ms King said.

"The outcome will, of course, depend on what the people want, but as a regional MP and minister, I really believe this can only strengthen the role of councils and ensure funding gets to where it's needed."

Ms King said she was also working within Cabinet and with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on a new regional policy to take to the election.

"I think we've already done a substantial amount for the regions, through both the nation building one and two rounds," she said.

"But overwhelmingly, there's more to be done, and certainly, we will take a regional policy to the election campaign."

However, she said she was unable to spell out the details of what specifically the Labor Party would offer remote and regional areas, saying such decisions were subject to confidential Cabinet discussions.

Ms King said she believed the crucial issues affecting regional areas, such as education, health and the National Broadband Network, would make the difference at the polls.

"Under the schools reform plans, we're offering a full $6 billion in extra loadings for regional, remote and very remote schools," she said.

"We've been putting the money into infrastructure for years now, and the NBN will help get better outcomes across education, health and that rollout is already under way."

Speaking a week after independent Tony Windsor called on regional voters not to take their votes for granted, Ms King said she "absolutely" agreed with his statement.

"I think an interesting thing in regional politics recently has been what the Nationals in Western Australia have done," she said.

"They have separated themselves from the Liberal Party and ensured better outcomes for the people voting for them.

"At the federal level, I think it's unfortunate the Nationals have done regional communities a great disservice by continually siding with the Liberal Party.

"And that's affecting the outcomes for the people, and the areas, who keep voting for them."

Topics:  catherine king kevin rudd regional development australia fund

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