State Budget a Mixed Bag for the Kimberley

May 24, 2022 | Neil Thomson MLC, State News

The Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region, the Hon Neil Thomson MLC, has acknowledged the State Government for finally taking note of community concerns over safety and lawlessness which has been destroying the fabric of Kimberley towns, but expressed grave concern about delivery of outcomes.

“The 2022/23 State Budget contains some promising commitments in the $40.4 million Kimberley Youth and Community Justice Response Package, but there are serious questions over whether the State can roll out these projects quickly enough to prevent further tragedies,” Mr Thomson said.

“More importantly, there is a big question mark over whether there is enough planned in the short term to turn the dial on youth antisocial behaviour and crime.

“The community is sick and tired of the ongoing wanton violence and destruction being wrought by juveniles who have been given a free pass by this Government on their activities.

“The big question is why it has taken so long to commit to $15 million to deliver an on-country residential facility as an alternative to detention at Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre.

“The challenge will be making sure this package has enough teeth to ensure that targeted young people participate in programs, and that their parents are also part of the solution,” Mr Thomson said.

“$11.7 million to extend the Kimberley Schools Project, to keep young people engaged with the school system is vital with attendance data being appalling over recent years.

“Some young people see the education system as being irrelevant, so we not only need to keep young people engaged, we need to reengage those who have fallen through the cracks.

“The culture of the Education Department has to change, and it needs to start at the top, with the Department of Education being more open and honest about performance.

Mr Thomson went on to say “there will be many people very disappointed with the budget.

“The Halls Creek dialysis centre was an election promise, but funding has only been allocated for the commencement of planning which is not due to finish until financial year 2024, meaning the government is probably looking to have a sod-turning ceremony on the eve of the next election in 2025.

“That might make the Minister feel good, but in the meantime, it is hugely disruptive for our Kimberley families,” Mr Thomson said.

“The lack of recognition of the critical shortage of social and affordable housing is disgusting,” said Mr Thomson.

“Whilst government housing is needed, the planned spot purchasing of Government worker housing will make it even harder to find accommodation in the Kimberley.

“The State Government should have addressed this issue several years ago before the market peaked,” said Mr Thomson.

“On the positive side, I have received assurances from Treasurer McGowan that the $350 million fund for remote Aboriginal communities to address overcrowding and substandard conditions is new money which will bring hope to many as inadequate housing has been linked to the wave of anti-social behaviour across the region,” said Mr Thomson.

“The issues are “when” and “how much” will be delivered in the Kimberley as this is state wide funding.

“The State’s $100 million addition to the $400million Commonwealth Government allocation to seal the Tanami Road is welcomed as it will be transformational for our region.

The establishment of the Tanami Road as a reliable transport route is good for local communities, for the reduction in transport costs for businesses trading with the east coast and will provide an important alternative for the supply of goods when the Great Northern Highway is impacted by seasonal weather events,” said Mr Thomson.

“The budget item that made me laugh was the dogged determination by the State Government that a third party, probably wearing armour and riding a white horse, will charge in and stump up $35 million towards the Broome boat ramp.

“Just get on with the job and fund this State Government infrastructure – it is a Department of Transport project.

“Broome people don’t ride METRONET– they just want a safe place to launch their boats!” said Mr Thomson.