The McGowan Government’s bizarre decision to spend almost a quarter of a million dollars on an advertising campaign to tarnish the State’s relationship with the Commonwealth will be to the detriment of people living in remote communities across Western Australia.
The Nationals WA Aboriginal Affairs spokesperson Terry Redman said the Government’s new $245,000 Don’t Walk Away campaign – which saw full page advertisements run in local and national newspapers over the weekend – would only hurt the State’s cause.
State Housing Minister Peter Tinley admitted as much on 29 June, when he told a press conference: “This is actually the sort of thing that breaks down relationships with the Federal Government.”
“In my 13 years in politics I have never seen such a bizarre and misguided attempt at negotiating an outcome,” Mr Redman said.
“Mr Tinley’s judgement must now seriously be questioned. How did an idea to spend $245,000 of WA taxpayers’ money on an advertising campaign aimed at ‘shaming’ the Federal Government into getting what Mr Tinley wants even see the light of day?”
Mr Redman said the lives of indigenous West Australians who live remotely were being used as political cannon fodder by a State Government which had seemingly “lost the plot” in regional WA.
“Instead of sitting down and sensibly negotiating an outcome with the Federal Government, Mr Tinley has decided to lob a taxpayer-funded hand grenade at the Commonwealth via the media,” Mr Redman said.
“Negotiations aren’t always easy and I understand Mr Tinley is frustrated but throwing the toys out of the cot just because you’re not getting it all your own way is an awful approach to such a serious matter.
“Meanwhile, people living in remote communities have no greater clarity as to what their future holds.”
Mr Redman said The Nationals supported the push to secure a new remote housing funding deal with the Federal Government, but the delicate situation demanded diplomacy not cheap political stunts.
“I have personally written to Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister urging him to prioritise a new funding deal for Western Australia’s 165 remote communities,” he said.
“I also raised the issue directly with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack during a recent meeting in New South Wales.”
Mr Redman said The Nationals had a strong record of closing the gap for indigenous West Australians while in Government, including the provision of $175 million for housing projects, $25 million for the Kimberley Schools Project and $20 million for the town-based reserve program in the Pilbara.
“While in government, The Nationals helped establish a robust plan to improve outcomes for children born into remote communities, committing $150 million of Royalties for Regions funding into a special purpose account,” he said.
“We worked with the Federal Government to align their investments with the Liberal-National Government’s remote reform plan. The McGowan Government, on the other hand, only seems interested in a game of brinkmanship with the Commonwealth.”