Pain in State Budget’s future planning

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Greens (WA) Treasury and Finance spokesman Diane Evers has expressed concern at the slug on public households in this year’s State Budget.

Treasurer Ben Wyatt announced that residents would have to find a total of almost $300 to pay for increases to water, power, public transport and car registration, which was hit with a $20 rise.

“These increases will be felt hard in all sectors of the community,” Ms Evers said.

“All up, the increases take the “representative household’s” annual liability to the State to $6327 a year.

“Many in the regional areas, with less disposable income, will struggle with the burden.

“Producers with a multitude of farm vehicles they need for their operations will definitely feel the sting.”

Ms Evers was also disappointed that no extra money was allocated to community resource centres, which have had their funding severely reduced.

“There was also no mention of Indigenous tourism, an area that was highlighted in a recent Auditor General’s report which said the State was not meeting its targets in this area,” she said.

“And there was no help for camp schools, nor agricultural schools that have been slated for the axe.”

On the plus side, Ms Evers was pleased that the Government would continue its investment in the regions.

She highlighted the $32 million that will be spent to purchase a new Australind railcar and to upgrade the Yarloop, Cookernup and North Dandalup train stations on the Bunbury rail line.

“The more people encouraged to take public transport, the less congestion we will have on our roads,” she said.

There were also funds put aside for major school improvements at Collie, Albany and Eaton, and $30m for the building of the Margaret River senior high school by 2020.

Ms Evers said to ensure the sustainable use of groundwater resources in WA, the Government would collaborate with local governments and other partners on longer term water supply strategies across the Perth and Peel region.

“Other good news is that a fire-damaged plantation in Myalup will be repurposed by DPIRD for a horticultural precinct, while $14.6 million over 2018-19 to 2020-21 will go toward the acquisition of land for much needed investment in softwood plantations,” she said.

Ms Evers hailed the allocation of $15.3 million over four years to establish an independent advisory body on infrastructure needs and priorities, which she said “had the potential to curtail ill-thought-out construction projects and save considerable funds”.

“The budget injected $37 billion over four years injected into medical facilities in the outer metropolitan and regional areas. While this is very welcome, the infrastructure body should be able to ensure that the money is spent wisely,” she said.

Ms Evers noted that the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development would be charged with supporting and building strong research, development and innovation capability in the regions.  The State Government added $24 million towards WA grains industry research, bringing the total to $45 million over the next four years.

“I welcome the Government’s planned review to independently identify the most appropriate role for the Department in the agriculture and food research, development and innovation ecosystem in the state,” Ms Evers said.

Ms Evers, who also holds the Greens (WA) agriculture portfolio, was supportive of a commitment to get the Department to work with Natural Resource Management groups and grower organisations to explore the science of and best practice in regenerative agriculture, focusing on premium food markets that can be accessed by farmers using these methodologies.

“Mr Wyatt has promised that the Department will facilitate the development of regional Western Australia to support long-term jobs, economic diversification and increased capacity of regional people, and we will be watching to see that those outcomes are achieved,” she said.

Ms Evers said the Treasurer highlighted climate change and climate variability as significant challenges for natural resource management and primary industry production.

“I welcome this acknowledgement of the issue, which we have long been pushing,” she said. “I will be interested to see how the Department supports primary industries to respond to this challenge.”

Overall, Ms Evers said it appeared the government was looking at longer term strategies.

“The budget was a prudent one with few surprises, which should continue the state’s fiscal recovery,” she said.

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