The Nationals WA have accused the McGowan Government of deliberately deceiving the agricultural sector amid doubts over Labor’s claim that it is delivering $131 million of new money into the sector.
Member for Moore Shane Love questioned the Government about the funding allocation during estimates hearings in Parliament this week.
“When broken down, the $131 million does not appear to be new money and does not appear to be delivering a single new project or program,” Mr Love said.
“It was an intentionally deceptive skewing of the facts by the McGowan Government, aimed at winning support from a sector they have always neglected.”
According to budget estimates, the $131 million figure comprised just $58 million of consolidated revenue, with the additional $78 million being sourced from Royalties for Regions and a mix of ongoing funds, levies and fees.
“These claims are further diluted by the revelation that it includes $22.5 million in Federal Government funding from the Grains Research and Development Corporation,” Mr Love said.
“When you consider the McGowan Government has been responsible for $40 million in cuts to agriculture over the past two years, it becomes hard for them to spin an ‘increase’ in funding.
“On balance, there appears to be zero dollars in new revenue for agriculture and the funding that has been announced is only to prevent further staffing cuts.”
The Government was also unable to provide detailed information about agriculture spending in the budget.
“Due to the merger of the Department of Agriculture into the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, it is no longer possible for the McGowan Government to distinguish what is funding for agriculture and what isn’t,” Mr Love said.
Agricultural spokesperson Colin de Grussa said an analysis of the State Budget showed funding for agriculture in 2019-20 was $50 million lower than under the previous Liberal-National Government.
“Labor has unfairly and inaccurately claimed they are investing more into agriculture than the previous State Government,” Mr de Grussa said.
“When you factor in the significant Royalties for Regions funding for agriculture under the Liberal-National Government, including the $350 million Seizing the Opportunity in Agriculture program, that claim simply doesn’t stack up.
“The McGowan Government has a responsibility to come clean with the agricultural sector and clarify how much it is truly investing in agriculture and where that money is going because right now there are many unanswered questions.”