THE State government announced $4.2 billion in Royalties for Regions funding across regional WA last Thursday as part of its State Budget.
The budget will also include a $7.5b investment in infrastructure for the regions, while bumper iron ore royalties have helped WA forecast a budget surplus of $1.2 billion this financial year.
The Labor government's budget also fully funds the suite of regional projects announced as part of the $5.5 billion WA Recovery Plan, which is delivering support for businesses and households, and driving jobs and economic growth in the region.
Regional TAFE's will benefit from the budget with $125.3m promised to upgrade TAFE campuses across regional WA and $25m set aside for free TAFE short courses to upskill thousands of Western Australians, with a variety of free courses available.
$16.6m will go towards the delivery of a new power station for Esperance and a further $121.6m will be provided for priority upgrades and improvements across WA's regional ports.
Other highlights for the broadacre and pastoral sectors include:
- $8m Northern beef research
- $35m shoulder to 400 kilometres of Wheatbelt roads
- $8m e-connect to keep 187 weather stations working
- $8m training infrastructure at Muresk
- $8m Carnarvon and Esperance dog fences
- $10m ag lime network
- $4m grower group support
- $1.4m Katanning sheep research
Liberal Party shadow treasurer Dean Nalder described the State Budget delivered as insipid and that it lacked a clear, strong economic plan to create local jobs for more than 100,000 unemployed Western Australians.
"Very little has been revealed that has not already been announced," Mr Nalder said.
"This is not an infrastructure blitz - the $27b is similar to normal government investment.
"This year Labor is spending just $7.5b - that is 10 per cent less despite a much bigger economy and a much bigger economic crisis."
However Agriculture and Regional Development Alannah MacTiernan said the budget continued the government's investment in regional WA.
"The McGowan government's ongoing guarantee to deliver Royalties for Regions ensures Western Australians have access to quality services, no matter where they live," Ms MacTiernan said.
"For the past four years, we have been focused on creating local jobs, delivering our election commitments in the region, and ensuring we continue to improve local infrastructure and services like hospitals and schools."
WAFarmers chief executive officer Trevor Whittington gave the State Budget a three out of 10, stating that the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) would be smashed over the next four years.
"How is there enough money to run a $1.2b dollar surplus, give every household a $600 credit on their power bill, employ 800 more cops, increase State debt by another $4b to a record $40b and roll out a $27b infrastructure program and yet allocate almost nothing toward major new projects to support either what's left of the old Agriculture Department, or the key infrastructure that supports farmers," Mr Whittington said.
"What I'm really interested in is the long-term budget trajectory which over the past 3.4 years and next four years is one of a steady decline for one section of the economy - agriculture.
For more on Mr Whittington's comments see page 44 of Section Two of this Week's Farm Weekly.
Premier Mark McGowan claimed regional households are big winners in the State Budget.
"We know that the pandemic has been extremely challenging for many in our community, and this assistance will make life a little easier for local families," Mr McGowan said.
"The State Budget fully delivers on the $5.5b WA Recovery Plan, which includes major upgrades to infrastructure and services across regional WA, driving economic recovery and creating a pipeline of local jobs.
"Even though COVID-19 caused the largest global economic shock in nearly 100 years, WA's economic and financial position is better than first expected due to our world-leading response and border controls."
However, The Nationals WA have claimed the government has missed an opportunity to use the budget surplus to breathe life back into Royalties for Regions to support regional WA's economic recovery in a post-COVID-19 world.
Leader Mia Davies said the budget surplus was built by killing off the transformational regional development program.
"The budget surplus delivered by record mining royalties meant the Labor Government had the opportunity to stop misusing Royalties for Regions by using it to pay for ordinary Government spending including subsidies to Water Corporation and TAFE fees and the orange school bus network," Ms Davies said.
"These are all worthy investments, but it is not appropriate for Royalties for Regions to foot the bill.
"The treasurer has missed a golden opportunity to reinvigorate the program and show regional Western Australians they matter."