Regional areas priority in NDIS: Crean

REGIONS will not be a casualty of the spending cuts introduced in the Federal Budget on Tuesday, Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean said on Wednesday.

Mr Crean said the success of regional grants programs in the past had helped secure the survival of such programs into the future.

While increases in grant spending were few, the budget did accelerate more than $1 billion for local government financial grants.

Another $1.5 million will also be spent for natural disaster recovery and $61 million for community infrastructure grants.

"While people were looking for cuts in this budget, the truth is that any programs that have previously been a success in regional Australia, we have continued," Mr Crean said.

"Things like the zero real interest loans (to help build aged care services) are a good example - while that program was coming up to its final round, we have continued that for at least another year because it works."

Mr Crean said that there would also be specific regional benefits from national initiatives including the $3.7 billion aged care reform package, the $1 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme; and a $1.5 billion Remote Jobs and Communities program.

"There will be four priority regions under the NDIS, and those will be in regional areas.

"We don't yet know exactly which regions they will and I believe that is something the Minister for Ageing (Mark Butler) has already been working on with stakeholders."

Mr Crean said the government also understood the huge demand for resources and workforce to help care for elderly people in regional areas.

"We know the demographics across regional areas, and there's a high level of older people in these communities, so as part of all the changes, we have taken that into account.

Other things that will help in regional areas, with aged care, with families, includes the almost $500 million we will spend on health for regional areas.

"Specific things like getting more dentists and general practitioners out to rural, regional and remote areas - helping them to relocate.

"So we have a plan to build the infrastructure, develop the training, and that includes creatively through the National Broadband Network and money for roads like the Pacific Highway, for regional areas"

After spending some $30 million through the Regional Australia Development Fund in 2011-12, there is $100 million to be spent in 2012-13, growing to more than $200 million in 2013-14 and $375 million in 2014-15.

There was also more than $60 million for community infrastructure grants in 2012-13 and $10 million to help people and businesses in regional areas adjust to the cost of the carbon tax.

Under Mr Crean's portfolio, spending on local government for un-tied grants for local roads and council operations fell by more than $1.2 billion to just over $1.1 billion for the 2012-13 fiscal year, but that is estimated to return to about $2.3 billion in 2013-14.

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