Nationals blast Liberals’ last-minute Royalties grab

Royalties rage: Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Dave Grills has slammed the Liberal party's decision to "cut Royalties for Regions "to the bone".
Royalties rage: Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Dave Grills has slammed the Liberal party's decision to "cut Royalties for Regions "to the bone".

WA Nationals members have expressed outrage at the Liberal Party’s decision to cut Royalties for Regions (RfR) by 40 per cent in order to meet costs in other regional programs.

Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Dave Grills, candidate for Murray-Wellington Paul Gillett and Member for the South West Colin Holt each slammed their former political partners – the formerly strong relationship fracturing over disagreements on RfR and Mr Gryll’s proposed mining levy increase – for announcing their decision two days before the state election.

“The Liberals waited until ten minutes to midnight to be honest with regional WA about their plans to cut Royalties for Regions to the bone," Mr Grills said.

"Both major parties would rather rip funding out of regional communities than stand up to the big miners and make them pay their fair share."

Mr Grills said while Labor and Liberal would keep the Royalties for Regions name, both parties would divert a substantial chunk of funding to infrastructure and services that should funded as part of general government expenditure.

"The net result is a massive cut to regional funding by both major parties – by nearly a billion dollars over the next two years under the Liberals’ plan," Mr Grills said.

"The Liberal Party have tried to deceive regional WA by attempting to hide these cuts by shuffling money around.”

Premier Colin Barnett told ABC Radio this morning the National’s response was misrepresenting how regional funding was procured and spent.

“The Royalties for Regions program has transformed regional Western Australia: regional cities, small towns, areas that were neglected - totally neglected - by a previous Labor government,” Mr Barnett said.

“So we've caught up. We've caught up in a short period of time by investing billions of dollars into country areas of this state.

“Now, what we've said is that a lot of the infrastructure that's been built - for example, sporting facilities, community centres and the like - the program has funded the capital cost of building them. It hasn't provided for their ongoing operation.

“And as I drive around country areas in Western Australia, a lot of local governments are saying: "Thanks for the lovely new facility, but we can't afford to run it. We can't afford to staff it. We can't afford to turn the air conditioning on.

“So what we're saying is: Royalties for Regions will pay for the ongoing expenses of running these facilities.”

Mr Holt said while the Nationals were disappointed by the decision, the party was aware cuts to Royalties for Regions would likely be a target in the Liberal’s cost-cutting measures.

“I’m not surprised by this at all. What the Liberals have shown is that, despite the words they’ve rolled out, they really don’t care about regional WA at all.

“We’ve known for a while the Liberal party would target Royalties for Regions to shore up city-centric debt, and that’s why we’ve been out on the road constantly, telling everyone a vote for the Nationals is the only way you can ensure regional funding continues at and above the current rate.”

Mr Holt said it was especially damning, as Royalties for Regions had played a large part in Liberal regional policy since its inception.

“The Liberals have used Royalties for Regions funding to fund almost every regional policy over the past two years. And now they’re the ones responsible for ripping that funding out of the regions. They should be held accountable.”