Member for Central Wheatbelt Mia Davies says this year’s State Budget was a missed opportunity for Labor to rectify the decisions of previous years to cut key programs and funding for regional projects.
“The Treasurer is boasting about bringing the Budget back to surplus, but we say this has been achieved by gutting Royalties for Regions and a good dose of lady luck,” Ms Davies said.
“More than $1.6 billion of the $4.2 billion program is now allocated for normal, everyday Government spending, things like subsidies for water, running our orange school bus services, paying for power and water in remote communities.”
Ms Davies said Royalties for Regions was never designed for ongoing recurrent spending and Labor was slowly but surely getting rid of the program and shortchanging regional people in the process.
“We have a Government that is now spending more on one single metropolitan project – Metronet – than on a regional development program covering the entire State,” Ms Davies said.
“It’s pretty clear where Labor’s priorities are.”
Ms Davies said while overall it was disappointing, there was some good news for the electorate.
“There is $16 million allocated for the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Network, and $18 million for the Great Eastern Highway between Walgoolan and Southern Cross,” Ms Davies said.
“This comes after a concerted lobbying effort from all stakeholders, including local Governments, me raising it in Parliament and the recent announcement of $70 million of Federal funding in the case of the Secondary Freight Network project.
Ms Davies said that with a surplus, the GST situation solved and strong iron ore prices there was an opportunity to return funds that had been ripped out of previous budgets.
“The Agricultural Colleges Trust Fund was raided, Boarding Away from Home Allowance cut and Farm Water Grants scheme scrapped,” she said.
“Labor could have restored funding to these important programs, but instead chose to build a few more kilometres of Metronet.”
Member for the Agricultural Region Hon Martin Aldridge said he was pleased to see initiatives like the Country Aged Pension Fuel Card and ongoing investment in telehealth services supported, but said country WA was still being short-changed.
“Unfortunately, with an underspend of $320 million last year, and nearly $1.6 billion going to normal Government services, communities in the Central Wheatbelt are missing out.”