Nats irate at move to gut Roy­al­ties program

Countryman - - NEWS - Rueben Hale

The Na­tion­als WA has ac­cused the State Gov­ern­ment of aban­don­ing re­gional ar­eas.

La­bor has come un­der fire af­ter it re­al­lo­cated $674 mil­lion of Roy­al­ties for Re­gions fund­ing ear­marked for projects promised dur­ing the elec­tion.

Na­tion­als leader Mia Davies said La­bor had bro­ken its prom­ise to main­tain R4R.

“This Gov­ern­ment has more than $5 bil­lion worth of elec­tion prom­ises it must ful­fil, a ma­jor­ity of which fall in the Perth area,” she said.

“De­spite com­mit­ting to R4R be­fore the elec­tion, Mark McGowan has now bro­ken that prom­ise and seemed hell-bent on re­turn­ing to the dark old days of when re­gional cit­i­zens were merely an af­ter­thought of Perth-first gov­ern­ments.

“With met­ro­pol­i­tan seats mak­ing up 76 per cent (42 out of 55 seats) of the La­bor cau­cus, Mr McGowan was al­ways going to put city vot­ers first.”

Ms Davies said by us­ing R4R to fund nor­mal gov­ern­ment ser­vices in coun­try ar­eas, the McGowan Gov­ern­ment in ef­fect saved money that could then be sunk back into the party’s pri­or­ity projects in Perth.

“Scarce funds will re­main for re­gional de­vel­op­ment, which R4R was cre­ated for and de­signed to cover above nor­mal gov­ern­ment spend­ing,” she said.

But La­bor MLC Dar­ren West has ac­cused the Na­tion­als of be­ing hyp­o­crit­i­cal.

“Last week the Na­tion­als WA had the R4R program dead and buried,” Mr West said.

“This week they are now up­set with us be­cause we are ful­fill­ing the com­mit­ments we made to the com­mu­nity be­fore the elec­tion.”

Mr West said the La­bor Gov­ern­ment was up­front about the need to re­di­rect R4R money.

“We have been very open about tak­ing some re­spon­si­bil­ity for fix­ing eight years of Lib­eral-Na­tional financial mis­man­age­ment and the mess we now find our­selves in,” he said.

“We have also been very up­front about redi­rect­ing some of the R4R funds to re­gional spend­ing by other gov­ern­ment agen­cies.”

Mr West said it was hyp­o­crit­i­cal of the Na­tion­als to ac­cuse La­bor of redi­rect­ing money to fund nor­mal gov­ern­ment ser­vices. He said there were mul­ti­ple ex­am­ples of the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment slash­ing depart­ment money and then top­ping it back up with R4R funds.

“The $350 mil­lion Seiz­ing the Op­por­tu­nity Agri­cul­ture is a prime example of the pre­vi­ous Lib­eral-Na­tional gov­ern­ment do­ing what they are ac­cus­ing La­bor of do­ing,” he said.

“With one hand they were strip­ping hun­dreds of mil­lions from Depart­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries and Re­sources’ (for­merly the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Food WA) bud­get and then re­plac­ing it with R4R spend­ing aimed at agri­cul­ture with the other.”

Kon­dinin farmer and Shire pres­i­dent Allen Smoker said the town had lost about $1 mil­lion in R4R fund­ing to build four aged-care houses in the town.

The money, an­nounced by the Lib­eral-Na­tional gov­ern­ment in the lead-up to the State elec­tion, was part of a $12 mil­lion pack­age to build hous­ing for the el­derly in nine shires over four years.

“We are very dis­ap­pointed be­cause the hous­ing is a pri­or­ity due to our age­ing pop­u­la­tion and the fact our se­nior cit­i­zens would pre­fer to re­tire in a town they are fa­mil­iar with,” Mr Smoker said.

“I know the State Gov­ern­ment has debt they need to pay down, but it seems los­ing fund­ing for this type of thing is un­rea­son­able.”

Photo avail­able at west­pix.com.au

Kon­dinin farmer and Shire pres­i­dent Allen Smoker says La­bor ap­pears to have turned its back on the bush.

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