23/10/2008 - 10:05

Premier sticks to guns on regional funds

23/10/2008 - 10:05

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Premier Colin Barnett has today insisted that there is no disagreement with Nationals Leader Brendon Grylls over the royalties for regions policy, as the opposition steps up calls for more clarity on the funding program.

Premier sticks to guns on regional funds

Premier Colin Barnett has today insisted that there is no disagreement with Nationals Leader Brendon Grylls over the royalties for regions policy, as the opposition steps up calls for more clarity on the funding program.

At a doorstop conference this morning, Mr Barnett said if there was an error in the regional funding deal, it was that both himself and Mr Grylls had been too open about it.

The ABC reported earlier today that Mr Barnett had backed down over the stalemate with Mr Grylls over the interpretation of the royalties for regions deal.

The broadcaster reported Mr Barnett as saying that the 25 per cent of royalties, or around $675 million, will be spent over and above funding already committed to in the previous government's budget.

Earlier this week, Mr Barnett said the funds was not on top of forward estimates included in the then Labor government's forward estimates.

A the conference, Mr Barnett noted the media hype regarding the issue, but reiterated today that the Liberal Party will honour the agreement with the Nationals, where 25 per cent of royalty income will go towards projects that would not have otherwise taken place.

"In other words new or additional projects," Mr Barnett said.

The Premier used the $58 million Kalgoorlie Hospital as an example, saying the $40 million earmarked in the previous government's forward estimates will remain and the outstanding $18 million will come from the royalties for regions program.

However he did reiterate that he was not committing to all the projects Labor had committed to in the forward estimates.

He added that the final detail of the funding program is being mapped out now with further details to be released later this year in the mid-year budget review.

The review will also contain a list of regional and metropolitan projects that are under review.

Meanwhile the opposition has stepped up its calls for clarity over the regional funding deal.

Shadow Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan has called for a joint statement from both Mr Barnett and Mr Grylls to provide details of the arrangement and explaining how additional benefits will be calculated.

"The clear understanding of the Nationals and the public was that Royalties to Regions would deliver 25 per cent on top of the monies already committed in the forward estimates," Ms MacTiernan said.

"On Monday Mr Barnett said that projects like Kalgoorlie Hospital, which are already in the forward estimates, were considered to be new projects and therefore coming from the Royalties for Regions fund.

"He appears to have changed his position and is now saying that with projects such as the Kalgoorlie Hospital only additional funding will be badged from the Royalties to Regions fund.

"However, this still leaves open the prospect that Royalties for Regions could be funded by axing other projects already in the forward estimates.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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