CRC funding cuts unfair

Projected funding cuts to the state’s 105 Community Resource Centres would be disastrous for both the workers in the CRCs and the communities they service, according to Greens’ Regional Development spokesperson Diane Evers.

The state government has signalled it will cut CRC funding for 2019/20 by 40%, a cut of $6 million that will make it almost impossible for CRCs to continue delivering their current level of service to rural and regional communities.

“I have grave concerns for the impact on WA’s rural and regional communities and predict that some of our most vulnerable community members will suffer in ways that I’d hope a Labor government would not countenance,” Ms Evers said.

“Staff in CRCs have in the past predominantly been underpaid women, but in recent years they have been put onto a federal award wage and equal remuneration order that saw them being paid a fair and reasonable wage for their efforts.

“This funding cut means those staff will either have their hours slashed or jobs removed altogether, and as a result the services CRCs offer to their communities will be radically reduced.”

“It is grossly unfair that community workers should have their working conditions lifted only to then have funding stripped from their sector so they can no longer be employed.”

Ms Evers said CRCs had a crucial role to play in their communities, providing a range of services which could not simply be replaced by an app on a smartphone, as Premier Mark McGowan indicated was the case.

“These centres provide everything from medical appointments, computer clubs for children and seniors, emergency relief, IT access, and assistance with accessing online government services. Beyond that, these centres are important social hubs where the isolation and challenges of life outside a city centre can be faced together,” she said.

Ms Evers said digital disadvantage was a significant problem for rural and regional people, and there was a real risk without assistance from CRCs some community members would be left behind.

“With more and more government services going online, if people are not digitally literate – or even able to access the internet – then they will fall further behind and struggle to participate in society as they need to. CRCs are a line of defence in our country communities against creeping digital disadvantage and the fallout that inevitably follows,” she said.

Farmers urged to speak up on GM

WA farmers have responded to the call for evidence for a Parliamentary inquiry into GM contamination issues, including compensation for non-GM farmers economically impacted if their crop is contaminated.

“It is so important that farmers address this inquiry with their on-the-ground experiences, and I am very pleased they are doing this,” Greens agriculture spokesperson Diane Evers said .

“We are hearing from farmers that there is no guaranteed way to protect their canola from GM canola; they’re telling us how this can happen – either in the paddock or during harvesting and transportation – and the financial implications for them if it does happen.

“The large and mostly silent majority of canola farmers in WA farming non-GM canola are at risk of losing out financially if their crops are found to contain GM canola, so rather than expect them to carry that burden we need to look at how they can be compensated for losses that they themselves have done nothing to incur. Traditional canola farmers stand to lose up to 10% on the price paid per tonne for their canola if it is found to have GM canola in it.”

Ms Evers said farmers had to be brave to speak out, but their voices and input were invaluable.

“The GM industry receives considerable media coverage, and its proponents are very vocal. By contrast, rarely do we hear from the silent majority, the non-GM farmers. This inquiry is designed to give voice to those farmers,” she said.

She urged farmers to make their submission to the inquiry by Friday, February 16, noting that farmers can request the parliamentary committee treat their submission as confidential.