Policy tour snub for north
State MPs and stakeholders have lined up to take a swipe at the Federal Government for snubbing the Pilbara and Kimberley from key discussions aimed at reshaping a regional development policy.
The Government plans to conduct a grassroots consultation process in the regions to understand local needs better, but only Albany and Gingin have been included on the WA itinerary.
Labor Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Stephen Dawson said the Government would be “stupid” not to visit the Pilbara and Kimberley if it was serious about drafting a regional development policy.
“The Pilbara has been Australia’s economic powerhouse for the last few years, but is now going through harder times and the Kimberley, aside from being a major tourism destination, is home to a significant Aboriginal population who could really benefit by being consulted with on a new policy,” he said.
Mr Dawson said it was not good enough to consult Regional Development Australia committees about the plan.
“The members of those are appointed by the minister,” he said.
“Come and talk to the real people on the ground, who’ll tell it how it is.”
Karratha and Districts Chamber Commerce and Industry chief executive John Lally said it was com- mon sense to include the Pilbara in discussions. “On all regional matters we would expect the Pilbara be consulted,” he said.
Durack MHR and member of the Northern Australia committee Melissa Price said she would lobby Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and his assistant minister
Michael McCormack to ensure that they visit the north.
“For too long the north has been put in the ‘not important’ basket, but this Government will develop the north and has demonstrated that by being the proud architect of the Northern Australia White Paper,” she said.
A spokesman from Mr McCormack’s office said there was space in the first week of consultations and after the sit- ting of Federal Parliament between March and May to reach other towns.
“We are not ruling out visiting any towns in the Pilbara or the Kimberley,” he said.
The spokesman said regions would have a voice through the 55 RDA committees, which had all been invited to make submissions and meet the minister.
Mr Truss said the new regional development policy would put regional areas, including indigenous com- munities, “firmly in the driver’s seat”. Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple said the North West had “incredible growth potential”, but had been “thrown in the too-hard basket”.
“Not including the Pilbara or Kimberley is to completely miss the point of furthering regional development for Western Australia,” he said.
Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive Simon Bennison said the North West should not be shunned. “We would love to see all ministers, let alone the deputy PM, visit these regional areas so they understand their needs and understand how they should be collaborating with the various States and regions in making sure their needs are met,” he said.
Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said the views of resource-rich towns needed to be taken into account.