Coalition Government taking WA for granted

Published on Mon 27 February 2017 1:02pm

So the area of greatest need in Western Australia, outer metro suburbs which have a particular regional function in WA, are going to get nothing as the NSRF becomes the Building Better Regions Fund.

Mr Wilson (1:02pm) — I thank the member for Forrest for moving the motion, and I thank my Western Australian Labor colleagues for responding to the topic and coming here to speak today. It is a shame that we have not seen a full book on the other side.

Support for regional Western Australia is important. We are the largest state in Australia, we face the greatest challenges in relation to a dispersed population across enormous distances, and we have a capital city where outer metropolitan areas have a regional function. It is those outer metropolitan regions that are under the greatest pressure from the prevailing economic circumstances in Western Australia. Western Australia is in recession. We have gone from top to bottom: we have gone from lowest debt and lowest unemployment to the highest per capita state debt and the highest unemployment in a very short term. So we need that support.

The National Stronger Regions Fund, if it did its job, would have played a part in addressing those issues. I am not sure that it really has. In round 1, certainly, Western Australia received only five per cent of all the funding. That seems to be a bit of a pattern in the way in which the coalition approaches Western Australia. As the member for Cowan said, in the course of the election campaign last year, 78 road and rail projects were promised by the coalition as it approached the election but only three of them were for Western Australia. That was $40 million out of $860 million in that pool, or 4.6 per cent—less than five per cent. That is half of our population share. As the member for Burt pointed out, we are talking about a state whose regional and rural areas account for a third of the nation, so when it comes to regional funding we should be getting more than our population share. Earlier this year, in the Regional Jobs and Investment Package—another package that is supposedly designed to support economic diversity and play a role in creating jobs in areas that face high unemployment—there was $220 million for 10 projects. For WA? Zero. There was nothing for Western Australia, even though some of the eligible areas in Western Australia have unemployment two and three times higher than equivalent areas that were funded.

I am glad that under round 3 of the NSRF there were some important projects for Western Australia as a whole. I think the agriculture, innovation and research facility in Dalwallinu is a good initiative. It is one of the areas of economic and jobs growth in the future. I think it is one of the niche, high value-added agricultural areas in Western Australia. I support the upgrade to Centenary Park in Kellerberrin, with a facility that is aimed at young people and tourism. It will provide a skate park in Kellerberrin, which I am sure will be as much loved there as the fantastic esplanade youth park is in my seat of Fremantle. I support those projects. But, as the member for Perth pointed out, it is a bit hard in metro Perth, and it is certainly a bit hard if you are not in a coalition seat to be too positive about the National Stronger Regions Fund when only one or two of the 34 projects in Western Australia under the three rounds so far have gone outside coalition electorates. I think that would cause many people to question just how rigorously that selection process is being undertaken.

Now we transition to the government’s Building Better Regions Fund, which the Weekly Times described in the following terms:

The Coalition’s pet fund for regional development projects will be rebranded and criteria changed to exclude outer metropolitan suburbs.

So the area of greatest need in Western Australia, outer metro suburbs which have a particular regional function in WA, are going to get nothing as the NSRF becomes the Building Better Regions Fund.

So, in Western Australia, we are still waiting to see any meaningful infrastructure spending. In my seat, we desperately need support for shipbuilding and public transport, but we needed that to start two years ago. It would be nice if it started now, but it should have started two years ago. We have had no support for public transport. We have had no support for local roads and bridges. We have had no support for shipbuilding or for coastal shipping, which is an important provider of jobs in my electorate. Really, if you are a Western Australian, the only conclusion you can draw on all the evidence is that the Abbott-Turnbull government and all its members from WA take the people of Western Australia for granted.

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