Jobs key plank in Labor rural policy

31 Oct, 2000 03:01 PM
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A LABOR Party government will reverse Liberal/National Party policies causing a shift in jobs from the regions to the city, according to Opposition primary industry spokesman Kim Chance. His "New Country Politics" speech in Perth at the Novotel Langley Hotel last week was an outline of Labor's regional policies ahead of the next state election, which must be called by May. He said a Main Roads Term Maintenance Contract system for the Gascoyne and Murchison, where local contractors were employed in a competitive tendering process, was now under threat from Perth-based companies being awarded the work. Mr Chance said the Government was at the point of signing the contract and that the most successful likely bidder was a Perth-based construction and civil engineering group. "If this contract is signed now, on the eve of an election, this locally based work will be lost to the region," he said. "More seriously, by the time the 10-year contract has run out, there will be little hope that there will be any local contractors left to provide any competition for the next round." He said these sorts of deals had already been done through the public infrastructure sector in Main Roads, Westrail, Water Corporation and Western Power, resulting in country towns losing families, services and job opportunities to city providers. "We will stop this centralised privatisation," he said later. "You can't justify a bank or a doctor if you don't have enough people." Mr Chance said Labor's yet-to-be-released regional and primary industries policies would set the path for a reversal of both the way policies would be implemented and the way they would be designed. This process would also involve a review of Agriculture WA's functions. Mr Chance said, when the Coalition came to government, it commissioned an "expert" to review Agwest's operations, with the subsequent changes made fracturing a once "great organisation". "Agriculture WA, as it is now known, is scarcely relevant to the needs of the industry," he said. "Labor will review the effect of these changes, but this time the review will be carried out with the close involvement of the peak farming organisations and will be directed at achieving the outcomes industry itself identifies as its priorities." He said Agwest's latest annual report indicated declining support and confidence from within its client group, even though raw figures indicated support was still quite high. Mr Chance said a specific regional minister would be included in the next Labor Cabinet to give the regions a direct voice in government.

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