Govt city-centric: Capes MPs

Warren HatelyBusselton Dunsborough Times
Vasse MP Libby Mettam.
Camera IconVasse MP Libby Mettam. Credit: Busselton Dunsborough Times

Capes MPs say almost a year in office and the latest blow-up about Labor funding bias show the Government only cares about safe seats in regional WA.

Nationals’ Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman and Liberal Vasse MLA Libby Mettam have accused Premier Mark McGowan’s Government of nakedly favouring the safe regional seats of Albany, Bunbury and Collie and placing too much focus on the city.

The comments precede reporting at the weekend showing Labor’s $39 million “job-creating” election fund was overwhelmingly geared towards its own seats or seats Labor thought it could win during last year’s election.

Ms Mettam said Labor’s focus was starkly reflected in a $20 million fund awarded to Labor MLA Mick Murray’s seat of Collie, with a committee formed to determine how to spend the money Ms Mettam said should be used to make Bussell Highway dual-lane for the region’s benefit.

Mr Redman said funding was dished out in Bunbury during last year’s election for a future stage of the city’s waterfront redevelopment that lacked a business case, which Mr Redman said helped former South West Development Commission chief Don Punch claim the seat for Labor.

Mr Redman said forward estimates for Royalties for Regions now showed by 2019-20, 45 per cent of the fund’s annual $1 billion spend would prop up essential country services like water and hospital patient travel assistance, previously covered by subsidies before Labor rejigged the scheme.

“The talk around the bush is that money’s dried up,” he said.

“Unless you live in Bunbury, Collie and Albany, don’t expect a lot.”

Mr Redman said many small regional groups reliant on R4R for minor funding were now going begging at the same time news emerged of Labor’s funding — called a “slush fund” by election analyst Peter Kennedy — paying for community projects in Labor-held seats.

Premier Mark McGowan dismissed allegations of pork-barrelling.

“The problem seems to be we’re not spending money in Dalkeith, Peppermint Grove, Cottesloe or Applecross,” he told other reporters. Capes MLAs said the Premier critically misunderstood regional concerns and Mrs Mettam said she and voters were “insulted” by the dismissal.

Labor Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan defended her Government’s record in the South West, pointing to funding for the perimeter road, the Margaret River Cultural Centre and redevelopment of Margaret River Senior High School, all of which were committed to before Labor took power.

“We make no apologies for prioritising the election commitments that were overwhelmingly endorsed at the election ,” she said.

Ms MacTiernan also said Labor had made a “significant investment in regional tourism”, committing almost $50 million to marketing and events Statewide.

Mr McGowan told the Times “any suggestion this Government is not investing in the South West is simply not backed up by facts”.

He insisted the Local Projects, Local Jobs program was solely about honouring election commitments.

Ms MacTiernan said South West infrastructure investment was worth $636 million during the next four years but she did not answer Mr Redman’s claim many regional services were now funded out of R4R, which was intended for unfunded projects in regional WA.

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