The Nationals WA have lamented a Budget surplus built on the grave of Royalties for Regions as spending on Metronet outstrips the once transformational regional development program.
Leader Mia Davies said Labor would throw $4.1 billion of WA taxpayer’s money at Metronet over the next four years, while Royalties for Regions had been scaled back to well under $1 billion per annum after sneaky cost-shifts by the McGowan Government were taken into account.
“Labor today announced it would take $1.6 billion of Royalties for Regions and re-purpose it for things like Water Corporation and TAFE subsidies, school buses and remote essential services,” Ms Davies said.
“Meanwhile, spending on Metronet is set to skyrocket.
“It’s hard to stomach as a regional party that one Perth project can have more than double the budget of a program designed to fund projects across the length and breadth of a State the size of Western Australia.”
To rub salt into the wounds of regional West Australians, the Budget papers reveal Labor under-spent on Royalties for Regions to the tune of $320 million last year – more than half of the Treasurer’s vaunted surplus figure.
“It’s nice to have the Budget back in surplus but it’s a surplus built on the grave of Royalties for Regions,” Ms Davies said.
“The corrupted shell of a program which once-upon-a-time drove economic development in the bush has been defiled by the McGowan Government and repurposed as its own personal piggy bank.
“By ripping money out of RfR to pay for day-to-day services, Labor is freeing up money in the rest of the Budget to spend on pet city projects such as Metronet and the redevelopment of the East Perth Power Station.
“These are not the need-to-have projects which are piling up in the regional education and health space, but the nice-to-haves designed to feed the hungry mouths of Labor’s metro-dominated party room.”
Ms Davies said there was a lot of pain in regional WA at present, exasperated by the McGowan Government’s decision to increase water and power fees for households and small businesses.
“Country people are the forgotten people of this McGowan Government and they are hurting,” Ms Davies said.
“Their fees and charges are going up; if they’re lucky enough to have a job their wages have stagnated.
“The McGowan Government has no hesitation in increasing the fees and charges of people in regional WA, yet baulks when it comes to getting the $300 million owed to the people of Western Australia by BHP in unpaid royalties.
“It’s fair enough for people in regional WA to question why they are forced to help pay down debt and contribute to Budget repair yet BHP – which made a $5.66 billion profit in the first half of 2019-20 – get to pick and choose how much they pay and when.”