Budget too Perth-focused

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

Capes Opposition MPs of all stripes have roundly lashed last week’s State Budget, labelling it inadequate and over-focused on Perth.

While WA Government critics were expected to find fault, local MPs told the Times the COVID-19 Budget missed key chances to support the South West and revealed continued misuse of Royalties for Regions.

In Thursday’s announcements, many of the key South West items singled out by Labor — such as $600 Synergy credits and 800 extra police — were available to all West Aussies. The Budget also listed many key projects such as a new $6 million oval at Margaret River Senior High School and $3m to finish the town’s main street, announced mid-year.

Bunbury’s waterfront transformation received $78.1m and the Bunbury ring road will be fast-tracked, but no big-ticket items were detailed for the City of Busselton or Augusta-Margaret River shire.

Labor also talked up $4.2 billion in Royalties for Regions funding across WA, but Nationals Leader Mia Davies said “under Labor, Royalties for Regions is dead”.

Warren-Blackwood Nationals MLA Terry Redman said the Capes “continue to be short-changed by a Labor Government obsessed with Perth projects worth billions of dollars”.

“My assessment is there is little in this Budget to give South West communities confidence Labor cares about our region,” he said.

Margaret River-based Liberal MLC Steve Thomas — echoed in part by Vasse MLA Libby Mettam — bemoaned the lack of local outcomes and agreed R4R continued to prop up Perth spending.

The problems included “cross-subsidisation of the consolidated fund which can then be used to prop up spending in the metropolitan region, and covering the cost of all regional Labor election promises, including the dud ones.”

Despite a rebuff earlier this year from the Nationals, Dr Thomas said the Budget showed R4R was in need of desperate reform — which the previous coalition should have undertaken.

“I am of the view that we need to work together on this, or the very future of the program is in doubt,” he said.

Greens MLC Diane Evers said the Budget could have helped the environment and taxpayers doing it tough.

“The waste on a $644m blanket giveaway through electricity indicates that this Government has money to spare and could properly fund these needed investments and services,” she said. “Now more than ever, the Government should be investing into our future.”

The Budget also allocated $350,000 to kickstart more mountain-bike trails in the Pines; $775,000 for a major carpark expansions at Redgate Beach and Rabbit Hill; and $650,000 for the Augusta volunteer fire station.

About $15m in road funding is set to improve safety across the South West.

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