Extra $500 million for community infrastructure

By Angela Dorizas

The Federal Government today announced a $500 million expansion of the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program (RLCIP) as part of its $42 billion economic stimulus package.

The additional $500 million over two years will fund local government strategic projects, including town halls, community centres, libraries and sport facilities.

The RLCIP was launched last year to provide $300 million for local community infrastructure, including $50 million for large scale strategic projects.

The expanded investment will allow more councils currently going through the application process to receive a slice of the strategic project funding. Successful applicants are required to commence work on approved projects within six months and spend the funding before September.

The Federal Government said the "rapid injection" of funds into community infrastructure will deliver short and long term jobs to local and regional communities.

The $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan unveiled by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan also includes free ceiling insulation for around 2.7 million homes, a new or upgraded school building in all of Australia’s 9540 schools; more than 20,000 new community and defence homes; $950 one off cash payments to single workers, students, eligible families and drought affected farmers; and a temporary investment tax break for small and general businesses.

The Government also committed $150 million towards critical maintenance works on national highways, installation of around 200 new boom gates at high risk rail crossings and around 350 additional safety improvement projects through the Black Spot Program.

The Nation Building and Jobs Plan is expected to increase economic growth to around 0.5 per cent of GDP in 2008-09 and approximately 0.75 per cent to 1 per cent of GDP in 2009-10.

In announcing the economic stimulus package, the Prime Minister warned that a deficit was inevitable.

"Because of the global recession the Government will go into temporary deficit and once the global economy recovers, act to restore our budget to surplus," Mr Rudd said.

"That’s the responsible course of action for the nation. I recognise that a temporary deficit may not be popular, but that is the global reality we face with virtually all Governments now in deficit. I cannot remove the impact of the global recession on Australian jobs, but by Government action we can reduce it."

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