Govt city-cen­tric: Capes MPs

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Capes MPs say al­most a year in of­fice and the lat­est blow-up about La­bor fund­ing bias show the Gov­ern­ment only cares about safe seats in re­gional WA.

Na­tion­als’ War­ren-Black­wood MLA Terry Red­man and Lib­eral Vasse MLA Libby Met­tam have ac­cused Premier Mark McGowan’s Gov­ern­ment of nakedly favour­ing the safe re­gional seats of Al­bany, Bunbury and Collie and plac­ing too much fo­cus on the city.

The com­ments pre­cede re­port­ing at the week­end show­ing La­bor’s $39 mil­lion “job-cre­at­ing” elec­tion fund was over­whelm­ingly geared to­wards its own seats or seats La­bor thought it could win dur­ing last year’s elec­tion.

Ms Met­tam said La­bor’s fo­cus was starkly re­flected in a $20 mil­lion fund awarded to La­bor MLA Mick Mur­ray’s seat of Collie, with a com­mit­tee formed to de­ter­mine how to spend the money Ms Met- tam said should be used to make Bus­sell High­way dual-lane for the re­gion’s ben­e­fit.

Mr Red­man said fund­ing was dished out in Bunbury dur­ing last year’s elec­tion for a fu­ture stage of the city’s wa­ter­front re­de­vel­op­ment that lacked a busi­ness case, which Mr Red­man said helped for­mer South West De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion chief Don Punch claim the seat for La­bor.

Mr Red­man said for­ward es­ti­mates for Roy­al­ties for Re­gions now showed by 2019-20, 45 per cent of the fund’s an­nual $1 bil­lion spend would prop up essen­tial coun­try ser­vices like wa­ter and hos­pi­tal pa­tient travel as­sis­tance, pre­vi­ously cov­ered by sub­si­dies be­fore La­bor re­jigged the scheme.

“The talk around the bush is that money’s dried up,” he said.

“Un­less you live in Bunbury, Collie and Al­bany, don’t ex­pect a lot.”

Mr Red­man said many small re­gional groups re­liant on R4R for mi­nor fund­ing were now go­ing beg­ging at the same time news emerged of La­bor’s fund­ing — called a “slush fund” by elec­tion an­a­lyst Peter Kennedy — pay­ing for com­mu­nity projects in Laborheld seats.

Premier Mark McGowan dis­missed al­le­ga­tions of pork-bar­relling.

“The prob­lem seems to be we’re not spend­ing money in Dalkeith, Pep­per­mint Grove, Cottes­loe or Ap­ple­cross,” he told other re­porters. Capes MLAs said the Premier crit­i­cally mis­un­der­stood re­gional con­cerns and Mrs Met­tam said she and vot­ers were “in­sulted” by the dis­missal.

La­bor Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Alan­nah MacTier­nan de­fended her Gov­ern­ment’s record in the South West, point­ing to fund­ing for the perime­ter road, the Mar­garet River Cul­tural Cen­tre and re­de­vel­op­ment of Mar­garet River Se­nior High School, all of which were com­mit­ted to be­fore La­bor took power.

“We make no apolo­gies for prior- itis­ing the elec­tion com­mit­ments that were over­whelm­ingly en­dorsed at the elec­tion ,” she said.

Ms MacTier­nan also said La­bor had made a “sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in re­gional tourism”, com­mit­ting al­most $50 mil­lion to mar­ket­ing and events Statewide.

Mr McGowan told the Times “any sug­ges­tion this Gov­ern­ment is not in­vest­ing in the South West is sim­ply not backed up by facts”.

He in­sisted the Lo­cal Projects, Lo­cal Jobs pro­gram was solely about hon­our­ing elec­tion com­mit­ments.

Ms MacTier­nan said South West in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment was worth $636 mil­lion dur­ing the next four years but she did not an­swer Mr Red­man’s claim many re­gional ser­vices were now funded out of R4R, which was in­tended for un­funded projects in re­gional WA.

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