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Minister must come clean on plans to dismantle Regional Development Commissions

Nationals Leader Mia Davies has called on the Minister for Regional Development to clarify the future of the State’s nine Regional Development Commissions amidst concern they will be reduced to nothing more than remote outposts of the new centralised Department.

“We are aware that the CEOs of each Development Commission have been told they will lose their jobs, and their positions abolished or shifted to Perth which will remove leadership and expertise from our regions,” Ms Davies said.

“If this is true then it has taken less than two months in power for Labor to undermine regional development in this State by centralising senior positions in Perth.

“It is a move straight out of the Labor playbook from when they were last in government and allocated a pitiful $80 million for regional development between 2004-2008, and the Development Commissions had no purpose or funding.”

Ms Davies said Labor’s plan to create super-Departments had already stripped the Department of Regional Development of its standalone status, relegating it to the backburner.

“The Department of Regional Development, Regional Development Council, the Trust and nine Development Commissions were responsible for nearly $1 billion worth of expenditure every year under the leadership of The Nationals WA,” she said.

“The Minister needs to come clean and tell the people of regional Western Australia what is going on.

“We know the Premier plans to rip $2.3 billion out of the regions as revealed in Labor’s release of its ‘Financial Management Plan’ just days before the election.

“We know Labor will gut the SuperTowns project which has seen towns such as Manjimup, Katanning and Northam diversify their economies and attract significant private investment. “And now it appears Labor will dismantle the nine Regional Development Commissions.”

Ms Davies called on country Labor MPs to show some backbone and reject changes that will strip funding from the regions to pay for metro projects.

“No one would appreciate the importance of Regional Development Commissions better than Bunbury MLA Don Punch, who was chief executive of the South West Development Commission for 18 years,” Ms Davies said.

“Indeed, Mr Punch’s Labor bio lists his successes during his time at the head of the SWDC, such as ‘supporting the development of aged care services, youth services, town centre renewal programs, and tourism development, just to name a few’.

“Now it appears Mr Punch is happy to be part of a Government dismantling what is considered to be the nation’s best regional development structure.”