The Greens (WA) finance spokesperson Diane Evers has questioned the benefit of Western Australia’s budget surplus when so many West Australians do it tough and the climate crisis continues to threaten the state’s environment.
As was the case in the May 2019 State Budget, there was no allocation for climate change strategies in yesterday’s budget papers, with the spending to maintain WA’s economic position dependent on avoiding a second coronavirus wave.
Ms Evers expressed concern that the WA Labor Government’s approach to the state’s finances utilised a very narrow risk assessment, with the COVID-19 pandemic arguably only one of many possible damaging crises to impact on society in the coming years.
With yesterday’s budget the last before the 2021 state election, Ms Evers said it provided a critical opportunity to chart a different course for WA and believed that more needs to be done to turn the climate crisis around.
Ms Evers said the WA Labor Government had a responsibility to ensure Western Australians have what they need to live a good life, through investment in housing, sustainable manufacturing and infrastructure and a renewable energy future.
The WA Labor Government announced a $600 credit towards electricity bills as part of the State Budget, which Ms Evers described as unnecessary for those who can afford to pay.
Ms Evers also highlighted a lack of significant investment in environmental management projects, such as increased funding for on-ground environmental works, serious development of Ranger programs for our southern forests, increased funding for fire preparedness and volunteer fire brigades as well as substantial increased investment in regenerative agriculture development to draw carbon from the atmosphere back into soils.
QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:
“A budget surplus, particularly in the year of COVID-19, should mean both vulnerable members of our community and environment are able to be looked after – instead, today was the launch of WA Labor’s 2021 election campaign.
“The strength of Western Australia is in the shape of the economy, not just size, and with a budget surplus and historically low interest rates, now’s the time to be bold and invest in our future.
“This budget has been framed as if COVID-19 is the only major risk heading our way, with limited planning for future pandemics, climate and other risks, while scientists are telling us that this is the critical decade to tackle climate change.
“We have a magnificent opportunity to combat climate change by ending native forest logging and stimulating the economy through a just transition of jobs to a plantation industry and new, sustainable forest stewardship roles.
“There is also no evidence that money will go to increasing pine plantation estates, despite the WA Labor Government openly acknowledging that there is a shortfall in meeting future supply contract requirements.
“Forests are the most efficient technology we have for drawing down carbon from the atmosphere, and protecting our native forests and developing the plantation industry is climate action.
“The South West Region is also an ideal location for renewable energy infrastructure and the State Government should provide business certainty in these clean industries by adopting a renewable energy target.
“Despite $27.1 billion to be spent on infrastructure in this budget, there is no evidence of increased investment in regional rail, despite widespread and growing community support for improved amenity and alternative strategies to avoid the dangers of freight on roads.
“To strengthen our regions, I would have expected an increase to the rail future fund, but clearly this government still needs encouragement to invest for the long-term resilience of our regions.
“$644m in electricity subsidies could have been targeted to those in need, and redirected some of the fund to encourage home battery energy storage and rapid charging stations running off renewable energy.
“Royalties for Regions is still being directed inappropriately, and has not targeted funds to help regional communities address challenging environmental impacts, which is why I introduced the Royalties for Regions Amendment Bill in 2019.
“The Royalties for Regions fund is capped at $1billion, and the Country Water Pricing Subsidy takes up 25 per cent.
”This subsidy was previously funded by the Water Corporation and should once again.
“Our regional health services were already under stress prior to the COVID-19 crisis and the World Health Organization recently called for whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches to establish and maintain effective preparedness – where is the funding in future years to address and prepare for future uncertainties?
“The top-down response so far has been effective, but also lucky.
“What our community desperately needs is investment into social and affordable housing, long-term food security, mental health support services including early intervention and prevention, and investment in regional manufacturing and product development.
“The waste on a $644m blanket giveaway through electricity indicates that this Government has money to spare and could properly fund these needed investments and services.
“Now more than ever, the Government should be investing into our future.
“This means bold government investment in social housing and homelessness prevention so no one has to spend a single night sleeping rough.
“With 14,000 households and nearly 24,000 people on the social housing waiting list, the Government isn’t doing nearly enough to ensure those who need a home, get one.
“Investment in education to make sure young people are properly prepared for the future.
“Investment in our mental health and disability support sectors to give everyone the best possible quality of life.
“And it means investment in the renewable energy transition to tackle the climate crisis head on, and the thousands of jobs that will be created with it.
“If the economy doesn’t work for all of us, it doesn’t work.”
GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070