Coulton's Catch-up | First aid kit, defibrillator and shed improvements.

Member for Parkes Mark Coulton catching up with members of the Copper City Mens Shed in Cobar last week.
Member for Parkes Mark Coulton catching up with members of the Copper City Mens Shed in Cobar last week.

Week on the road

I spent last week on the road travelling from Warialda to Broken Hill via Moree, Walgett, Grawin, Brewarrina, Bourke and Cobar, to catch up with local councils, community groups and constituents.

With such a large electorate in geographical terms, it's never easy getting to every community in Parkes, though I always do my best.

A highlight of the week was catching up with the dedicated members of the Grawin Men's Shed, which has received over $7,000 for a first aid kit, defibrillator and shed improvements.

I also checked in with the Cobar Mobile Children's Service, which has received $68,000 to continue its work helping children on isolated properties experience the best possible start to their education. Continuing the theme of educating our youth, I met with the team at Making Tracks Far West NSW in Broken Hill, which will use its grant of more than $29,000 to support disengaged youth in the Far West. I relished the opportunity to chat with some of the students who benefit from this initiative.

The drought continues to bite and the last few months have seen my electorate enter unchartered territory. Having met with five local councils in the electorate in the past week alone, I'm aware of the effects the drought is having on our western communities, and I'll continue to highlight these issues upon my return to Canberra this week.

During the current Parliamentary sitting fortnight, I'll also be meeting with stakeholders and hosting a Rural Health Roundtable. I'll be taking forward the implementation of our new Rural Health Strategy and addressing issues like doctor shortages.

$20m Basin research program increases security

Water was a hot topic of discussion during my travels west last week, so I'm pleased about a research program which will better inform water and environmental management decisions.

A new $20 million research program to increase knowledge around the Murray Darling Basin will be led by water scientist Professor Rob Vertessy. While we can't make it rain, we can always improve our knowledge of the Basin.

Administered by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, this will improve our understanding of how things such as hydrology and climate change impact the environment, and the livelihoods of people in the Basin. The program will also coordinate research that's already happening so everyone can work together towards improved outcomes.

Professor Vertessy led an independent review for the Government into the mass fish deaths in the lower Darling River last summer. After the fish deaths, the Commonwealth committed $20 million to fund this new science over four years, and this delivers on that commitment.

Regionally based research bodies will also benefit and will be well placed to access this funding. Knowledge is power, and having a better understanding of the basin system as a whole will translate to better policy outcomes for many local communities.

Export hub funding

The Coalition Government is helping business access global markets with applications now open for round two of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Export Hubs Initiative.

In April I was thrilled to announce funding of almost $235,000 for Regional Development Australia (RDA) Orana in Dubbo, which was one of ten successful recipients under the first round. This export hub is set to focus on the support of mining equipment and technology industries.

Round two will also be supporting industry to develop hubs in local and regional areas, giving local firms access to international markets and driving job creation.

This initiative provides each hub with matched funding of up to $1.5 million for up to three years - apply by September 19 at