Two conservative financial think tanks have rejected the Barnett government’s $1.5bn Royalties for Regions plan, suggesting it be scrapped as it has “formalised pork-barrel politics on a massive, perhaps unprecedented scale”.
The news article “Barnett regions fund blasted for ‘unprecedented’ pork-barrelling” has all the details on this story. It says the following: “In a report to be released today, the Institute of Public Affairs and the Mannkal Foundation say the scheme — which receives 25 per cent of Western Australia’s huge mining royalties each year — is an inefficient way of investing in regions because of the ‘scramble’ to spend the funds while they are available.” http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/barnett-regions-fund-blasted-for-unprecedented-pork-barrelling/story-e6frgczx-1226448737711
The report suggests a wave of drastic changes for modernising WA and capitalising on the mining boom in the state.
The institute’s research fellow Chris Berg believes the existing arrangements for the Royalties for Regions plan should be discarded.
“Certainly, regions deserve their fair share of royalties but the Royalties for Regions program is a slush fund for the National Party,” Berg said, adding, “I don’t see that there is any real justification for that. The Royalties for Regions should be at least reformed, if not entirely abolished.”
Berg described the $1.5bn plan as ineffective and a waste of money. He noted, “It is a massive pork barrelling scheme basically for the National Party, I think, there is no way to get around that. The problem is that there doesn’t appear to be a political solution to the problem, unfortunately, and that is why it remains.”
Meanwhile, Brendon Grylls, the designer of the Royalties for Regions plan and leader of the WA Nationals, has rejected the report.
“I absolutely refute that, and until my last breath in politics, I will fight people like the authors of this report who clearly don’t understand country WA,” said Grylls, adding, “I’ve suggested they get stuffed.”
According to Grylls, the regions have seen five decades of under-investment. He argued that there was no question of pork barreling when museums, sports and waterfronts were being built in the capital cities; nobody ever compiles a report regarding that.
WA opposition leader Mark McGowan said he would continue the Royalties for Regions plan if he won the election but would take measures to eliminate wastage.
“We will spend the money more wisely on things like dangerous country roads and important health services and cost of living initiatives,” Gowan said.