The Shadow Treasurer Dr Steve Thomas says that the 2022-21 budget papers released two weeks ago have proven once and for all that the Labor Party is happy to use the Royalties for Regions fund as its personal plaything.
“Soon after it was elected in 2017 the Labor Party started stealing money out of the fund by trans-subsidising normal Government expenditure” Dr Thomas said. “This means that it was taking R4R money and spending it on things normally funded by the Consolidated Fund.”
“The largest example of this was the shifting of the funding of the Country Water Pricing Subsidy in 2019, which subsidised regional water supplies so that users in the country pay the same price as those in the metropolitan area.”
“In the 2019 budget the McGowan Government completely undermined the function and intent of the R4R fund by shifting $250 million a year from the Consolidated Fund into the Royalties for Regions” Dr Thomas said. “That was a quarter of the R4R fund gone in one foul hit.”
“That allowed the Government to keep that money – $1 billion over four years – in the Consolidated Fund to spend in Perth.”
“That insult to all country people has now been not only outed but highlighted in the 2021 budget released this month” Dr Thomas said.
“Now the Labor Party has partly reversed its trans-subsidisation process for the Country Water Pricing Scheme, but only to pay for its own election commitments!”
On page 298 of 2021-22 Budget Paper 3 the Government has included the following line –
“RfR funding for the Country Water Pricing Subsidy has been reduced to reflect increased RfR funding for regional election commitments and other initiatives in this Budget.”
Page 220 of the same book shows that the proposed trans-subsidisation this year is down to $370 million over four years. In last year’s budget papers that number was $1 billion.
“If we ever wanted proof that the Labor Party simply uses Royalties for Regions as an economic toy, it is there in the budget papers in black and white” Dr Thomas said. “This is an admission that the fund was being plundered, and they are happy to change the rules but only so that the fund can be plundered to Labor’s political benefit.”
Dr Thomas has repeatedly called for the rules and guidelines around the Royalties for Regions fund to be tightened to stop the kind of theft the Labor Party has blatantly and shamelessly demonstrated.