Treasurer Ben Wyatt has confirmed what many regional West Australians suspected: the McGowan Government is siphoning off Royalties for Regions to fund Perth projects.
In an estimates hearing at State Parliament this week, The Nationals WA hammered the Treasurer on why his Government had left more than $319 million of Royalties for Regions unspent in the 2019-20 Budget.
During the hearing the State’s Under Treasurer confirmed there had been a “significant underspend” of Royalties for Regions in 2018-19, all of which will be “banked as part of the overall public bank account”.
The Nationals WA treasury spokesperson Terry Redman said as a consequence of not spending the money on regional infrastructure or programs, the money would flow into the consolidated revenue account where it could be spent on anything the Government chooses.
“Regional WA has been robbed of hundreds of millions of dollars – money which is now likely to be ploughed into Perth projects such as Metronet,” Mr Redman said.
“Not only is this Government reaping the benefits of extra royalty revenue generated in regional WA over the past 12 months, it’s also pilfering the money specifically set aside for regional communities under the Royalties for Regions Act.
“It’s just another act of larceny by this anti-regional McGowan Government.”
In a fiery exchange during the estimates hearing, the Opposition accused the Treasurer of using Royalties for Regions to plug holes in his Budget.
“You can describe it any way you like; Royalties for Regions will react to the priorities of the government each budget round,” Mr Wyatt said in reply. “We spend R for R on our priorities.”
Mr Redman said the problem was that Labor’s priorities all resided in the metropolitan area.
“The McGowan Government consistently makes choices to prioritise city electorates over regional communities,” Mr Redman said.
“In this year’s Budget there was $4.1 billion allocated to Metronet alone – this far outstrips the $2.6 billion allocated to Royalties for Regions when you remove the $1.6 billion Labor is burning on water subsidies and other items which previously were funded through consolidated revenue.”
Despite his Premier promising a gold standard of transparency before coming to Government, Mr Wyatt refused to answer questions on how much Royalties for Regions funding had flowed into the consolidated account.
“I have not done the calculation … I do not intend to do that calculation,” he said. “I am sure you can work it out.”