It’s been another productive week in Canberra the last Parliamentary sitting week before its return in late November.

The coming weeks will see me travelling for Ministerial duties, as well as spending as much time as I can in the Parkes electorate.

I was pleased to meet representatives from Namoi Unlimited in Parliament House last week, which incorporates Gunnedah, Gwydir, Liverpool Plains, Tamworth and Walcha Shire Councils.

We discussed the continuing drought conditions and the burden being placed on local business and communities, and their campaign #MYDROUGHTSTORY, which highlights recommendations to address the impact of drought.

During the week I spoke to Government representatives and various groups about the Government’s Mobile Black Spot Program, educating our health workforce, the Inland Rail Interface Improvement Program, and trade and investment matters, among others.

I also met a group of around 30 council CEOs from across the country to address the future direction of local government policy.

Some of my constituents may have seen that I caught up with David Speers on Sky News during the week, to shed more light on just how challenging the drought is for my constituents in the Parkes electorate.

I impressed upon David that the Nationals are working hard to keep delivering as the drought continues.

It’s vital we don’t get caught up in the politics of drought – this issue is far too important. We will keep
taking action to take care of the immediate issues and prepare for future droughts too.

I’ve been lucky to have lots of school visits in Parliament recently. I’m delighted that students from Dubbo Public, Lake Cargelligo Central, St Joseph’s Walgett, and Ballimore Public Schools all enjoyed their time in the nation’s capital. It was great to catch up with many of them to chat about the role of Government and answer all their questions.

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First home buyers in my electorate will be able to enter the property market sooner after the Coalition Government passed new laws to implement the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, and the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation’s new research function.

The Scheme is designed to help first home buyers buy sooner, by providing a guarantee that will allow eligible first home buyers on low and middle incomes to purchase a home with a deposit of as little as 5 per cent. The Scheme will support 10,000 first home buyers each financial year.

The Scheme will commence on January 1, 2020 and will be operated by NHFIC.

Applicants will be subject to eligibility criteria, such as having taxable incomes up to $125,000 per annum for singles and up to $200,000 per annum for couples.

The Scheme will apply to owner-occupied loans on a principal and interest basis, and will be subject to regional price caps.

The legislation also establishes a new housing research function that will allow NHFIC to examine housing demand, supply and affordability in Australia, complementing existing housing-related research.

These incentives have helped thousands of first home buyers enter the market.

In the past year, more than 110,000 Australians bought their first home – the highest level since 2009.

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I’m glad more regional students will get the opportunity to earn a tertiary qualification while still living in their local community, with funding on offer to establish new Regional University Centres.

Regional University Centres allow students to study at partner tertiary institutions without having to move away from their community.

The centres provide access to local study spaces, computing facilities and academic support, and give students the flexibility they need to succeed.

In the Parkes electorate we have the Country Universities Centre North West Regional Study Hub in Narrabri and Moree, as well as the Far West Hub, in Broken Hill.

These Hubs provide endless opportunity for local students and I’ve seen firsthand just how much value these facilities are providing to their local communities.