‘Royalties misuse’ fires anger
COMMUNITY leaders are concerned the State Budget’s $4 billion Royalties for Regions fund is being used for projects previously part of normal expenditure in a bid to free up money for metropolitan projects.
Manjimup shire president Paul Omodei, Bridgetown-Greenbushes shire president John Nicholas and Warren Blackwood MLA Terry Redman have expressed their concern for projects worth $861 million that were partially funded outside of Royalties for Regions.
Mr Redman said the four projects that made up the $861 million were a Water Corporation subsidy to give regional customers pricing on par with metropolitan areas, the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme, the Remote Community Essential Services and a TAFE subsidy for regional students.
“It’s effectively a cut because they make savings in the consolidated funds to spend on their METRONET,” Mr Redman said.
“I describe the $861 million they’re saying is now being cost shifted to Royalties for Regions as being fake news because the longer-term impact of this budget decision is that every year we’re going to have $400 million taken out.”
Mr Redman said one of the leading issues was that if you did not live in Bunbury, Collie or Albany, “there was nothing in this (budget) for you”.
“If you look at what the Labor Party said before the election, they have now conned regional West Australians as to what we’re now seeing come through in their first State Budget,” he said.
Following the Budget release last week, a statement from the Government confirmed there would be more than $4 billion spent in Royalties for Regions, including more than $1 billion on new projects for job creation, regional health, mental health and education.
In addition to the regional TAFE subsidy, the statement also specified Royalties for Regions funding of $147.4 million for PATS and $164 for the “essential and municipal services for remote and Aboriginal communities”.
“The Royalties for Regions fund, framework and legislation will continue, as we have made clear, however we are ensuring funding is spent wisely on projects people really need,” Premier Mark McGowan said.
Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the Budget struck a balance between retaining critical existing regional projects and fulfilling the Labor Government’s job-generating election commitments in the regions.
Cr Omodei said there was some “sleight of hand” in seeing previously consolidated fund projects now being funded through Royalties for Regions.
“That was going on under the previous government but is now enhanced by the new Government,” he said.
Cr Omodei added the Manjimup Shire Council had received a letter from the State Government that stated the money committed to the Town Centre Revitalisation Project, except the $3 million already refunded for this budget, would stay.
“There’s also flexibility to where funds within the revitalisation can be spent, so if there’s surplus from one project it can be moved to another,” he said.
Cr Nicholas said he was disappointed at the loss of road funding and said the cut was not done equitably.
“We effectively lost about $30,000,” he said.
“Not that it necessarily affects us, but I’m also concerned about the cuts to the public sector in the region.
“Services to the country rural shires will be reduced and could be costly, slower and could cause frustration.”