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Regions are being ripped off: Davies

Zoe KeenanSouth Western Times
Nationals MLC Colin Holt and leader of the Nationals Mia Davies visited businesses and stakeholders in the South West last week.
Camera IconNationals MLC Colin Holt and leader of the Nationals Mia Davies visited businesses and stakeholders in the South West last week. Credit: Zoe Keenan

The State Government needs to stop spending Royalties for Regions on regional services normally paid for with ordinary revenue, WA Nationals leader Mia Davies says.

Ms Davies visited Bunbury and the South West last week to discuss policies concerning the region.

On the top of her agenda was the distribution of RfR funds, originally designed in 2008 by her party to redirect spending into the regions and encourage innovation and regional development.

But Ms Davies said the State Government was short-changing regions by using the funds to pay for services usually paid for with ordinary government revenue.

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“The orange school bus network that services our regional schools and areas that used to come from the Department of Transport budget, that’s now being paid for by RfR. Likewise regional education assistance, TAFE subsidisation fees in regional WA, they’re all good things to have ... but RfR was about innovating service delivery.”

However, Bunbury MLA Don Punch said as far as Bunbury was concerned there had never been a time when more money from RfR funds had been spent on the city.

“We consistently in the South West missed out on funding that was going into the Pilbara, Wheatbelt, Kimberley and Gascoyne,” he said.

“I think the McGowan Government has changed that and we now have the biggest spend here that I’ve seen in my memory.”

Ms Davies said RfR was about leveraging funding to achieve regional development outcomes.

“Our view is you are short changing regional Western Australians by making RfR pay for normal infrastructure and services,” she said.

Last year the State Government underspent the RfR fund by $320 million, according to Ms Davies.

Ms Davies said there was still $4.2 billion in forward estimates in the budget that should be spent on projects and services to improve regional WA.

“It should be a constant and ongoing pipeline of projects and service innovation that creates communities where the private sector ultimately wants to invest money where people want to live,” she said.

“If you’ve got projects in the South West… that’s (RfR) where people would naturally go to say we’ve got this idea we think will make our communities better places to live, or work, or invest.”

At the Nationals WA State conference in Exmouth, Ms Davies said restoring RfR to its original purpose was a non-negotiable condition of forming government with the WA Liberals.

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