Nats irate at move to gut Royalties program

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
Kondinin farmer and shire president Allen Smoker says Labor appear to have turned their back on the bush.
Camera IconKondinin farmer and shire president Allen Smoker says Labor appear to have turned their back on the bush. Credit: WA News

The Nationals WA has accused the State Government of abandoning regional areas.

Labor has come under fire after it reallocated $674 million of Royalties for Regions funding earmarked for projects promised during the election.

Nationals leader Mia Davies said Labor had broken its promise to maintain R4R.

“This Government has more than $5 billion worth of election promises it must fulfil, a majority of which fall in the Perth area,” she said.

“Despite committing to R4R before the election, Mark McGowan has now broken that promise and seemed hell-bent on returning to the dark old days of when regional citizens were merely an afterthought of Perth-first governments.

“With metropolitan seats making up 76 per cent (42 out of 55 seats) of the Labor caucus, Mr McGowan was always going to put city voters first.”

Ms Davies said by using R4R to fund normal government services in country areas, the McGowan Government in effect saved money that could then be sunk back into the party’s priority projects in Perth.

“Scarce funds will remain for regional development, which R4R was created for and designed to cover above normal government spending,” she said.

But Labor MLC Darren West has accused the Nationals of being hypocritical.

“Last week the Nationals WA had the R4R program dead and buried,” Mr West said.

“This week they are now upset with us because we are fulfilling the commitments we made to the community before the election.”

Mr West said the Labor Government was upfront about the need to redirect R4R money.

“We have been very open about taking some responsibility for fixing eight years of Liberal-National financial mismanagement and the mess we now find ourselves in,” he said.

“We have also been very upfront about redirecting some of the R4R funds to regional spending by other government agencies.”

Mr West said it was hypocritical of the Nationals to accuse Labor of redirecting money to fund normal government services. He said there were multiple examples of the previous government slashing department money and then topping it back up with R4R funds.

“The $350 million Seizing the Opportunity Agriculture is a prime example of the previous Liberal-National government doing what they are accusing Labor of doing,” he said.

“With one hand they were stripping hundreds of millions from Department of Primary Industries and Resources’ (formerly the Department of Agriculture and Food WA) budget and then replacing it with R4R spending aimed at agriculture with the other.”

Kondinin farmer and Shire president Allen Smoker said the town had lost about $1 million in R4R funding to build four aged-care houses in the town.

The money, announced by the Liberal-National government in the lead-up to the State election, was part of a $12 million package to build housing for the elderly in nine shires over four years.

“We are very disappointed because the housing is a priority due to our ageing population and the fact our senior citizens would prefer to retire in a town they are familiar with,” Mr Smoker said.

“I know the State Government has debt they need to pay down, but it seems losing funding for this type of thing is unreasonable.”

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails