Liberal Leader Zak Kirkup and the Shadow Minister for Regional Development Dr Steve Thomas have today released the Liberal Party’s policy for Regional Development and the Royalties for Regions program, which is designed to improve its accountability and therefore ensure the future of the program.
“The Liberal Party is committed to developing our regions and maintaining the Royalties for Regions program, because this is critical to the growth of our state,” Mr Kirkup said.
“If you look at how Western Australia coped with the COVID-19 crisis of 2020, it was the mining and agricultural sectors from our regions that underpinned our economy and allowed us to advance well beyond the other states.
“That effort has to be supported by government, and we are committed to making that happen.”
Dr Thomas said the Liberal Party was taking a conservative approach to Royalties for Regions, which would ensure proper financial management into the future.
“We cannot simply continue to cost shift Royalties for Regions back to the Consolidated Fund like Labor has done so that they can spend the money in the metropolitan region; nor can we use the fund like a slush fund to throw money around for purely political purposes as if it doesn’t count on the books like the Nationals,” Dr Thomas said.
“For that reason, any Royalties for Regions spending from the Liberal Party will be matched by appropriate savings to maintain the integrity of the fund.
“The first example of this is the Liberals’ decision to reverse Labor’s trans-subsidisation measure of shifting regional school bus services onto the Royalties for Regions budget from 2021-22 – or next financial year.
“This measure was Labor’s latest theft from the Royalties for Regions fund back into the Consolidated Fund, and the Liberal Party in government will expect that funding source to go back to the Public Transport Authority, where it has always come from to date.”
Dr Thomas said an incoming Liberal Government would negotiate with the Public Transport Authority to manage the reversal of the cost shifting measure through internal budget management, but would if necessary make an additional call on the Consolidated Fund to ensure the proper delivery of the service.
“The reversal of this Labor theft from Royalties for Regions will allow the Liberal Party to fund a number of commitments that will boost economic development in
regional WA Royalties for Regions while also maintaining our fiscal integrity,” Dr Thomas said.
The cost shifting of school bus services was costed by the Labor Government at $80 million a year in the October State Budget.
Both the Opposition Leader and Shadow Minister reiterated the Liberal call for the National Party to meet with the Liberals to plan for the management of regional development into the future.
“We need to be working with the Nationals to get the best result,” Mr Kirkup said.
“It would be good to see our two great parties working together for a common goal that benefits regional WA, which plays such a pivotal role in driving the State’s economy.”
Dr Thomas said that without a working agreement and better decision-making principles, the very future of Royalties for Regions was at risk.
“When the price of iron ore is high and the state is making billions extra in royalties it is easy to throw money around, but when the price goes back to its normal long-term average the pressure on the budget will be immense and the very future of the program will be threatened,” Dr Thomas said.
“To that end I expect National Party promises from the Royalties for Regions fund to be matched by savings as well, or they are simply adding debt and deficit and cost shifting like Labor in reverse.
“To do so the Nationals will need to negotiate with the Liberal Party, and my door remains open so that we can find a sensible solution and ensure the future of the Royalties for Regions process.”