Grylls defends Royalties record

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
Brendon Grylls.
Camera IconBrendon Grylls. Credit: The West Australian

The Labor Party may have proclaimed the Royalties for Regions program dead, but the Nationals claim it is stronger than ever.

Since the program started in 2008, Royalties for Regions has allocated more than $4.2 billion to more than 3500 regional development projects.

During last week's State Budget, Treasurer Mike Nahan announced a $1 billion cap on spending for the program, which will reduce the amount to just 12.4 per cent of mining and offshore royalties over the next four years.

After the announcement Opposition Leader Mark McGowan declared the program "dead and buried", saying the people of WA had been cheated by the coalition.

But former Nationals WA leader and Royalties for Regions architect, Brendon Grylls, says the commentary from the Opposition has shown they have completely missed the point.

As leader of the Nationals in 2008, Mr Grylls introduced Royalties for Regions to reinvest 25 per cent of royalties into regional WA each year.

Mr Grylls said the cap had been in place since the program started and nobody had believed the fund would be so successful at the time.

"If you had told me as one of the founding people that sat around the table thinking about Royalties for Regions that between 2014 to 2018 we'd be delivering $1 billion a year, I would have said you were bonkers," he said.

"So now I can say that I've worked with Nationals leader Terry Redman all the way through and I think he's delivered an outstanding outcome for the regions.

"I had the benefit of not having the funds to breach the cap, but we're now in a position of breaching the cap for the first time since 2008, so this is not new.

"After some time we realised that there would be a point in time that we would reach the cap and we did just that."

Mr Grylls said now with the State's tight fiscal climate the Nationals have had to battle hard to keep Royalties for Regions.

"We've got to try and deliver a regional development policy, with a priority on regional development, within the framework of being in government," he said.

"And the framework we had when I came into government in 2008 is very different to the framework now.

"Terry, with his hand-on-heart, can tell you that more money will be spent on Royalties for Regions in the next four years than in the last four years, in an environment of economic pressure.

"I would have thought Terry would have been congratulated for picking up Royalties for Regions and getting it over the line."

Mr Grylls said it was ironic that he was now defending the reduced percentage of royalties.

"Saying you could have had $2 billion, which is 25 per cent of the royalties, actually fails the full test of the policy, remembering that I as leader for five years defended people saying it was too much money and you shouldn't be spending it," he said.

"And now we're reflecting the changing State circumstances and everyone is making the same point.

"What I don't like is this tenor that Terry has not done as well as Brendon Grylls with Royalties for Regions."

Mr Grylls said he and his colleagues still face fierce opposition to Royalties for Regions from all sides of politics, but the party remains completely committed to the policy.

Mr Grylls said the Nationals were prepared to go to the next election as independents to defend Royalties for Regions.

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