State Budget and RFA released

THE handing down of the State Budget and the signing of the Regional Forest Agreement with the Federal Government made for a busy start to this month.

This year’s budget is the seventh one for the Coalition Government. It is also the second year we have used the full accrual presentation that we believe gives a much fairer and more accurate picture of what is happening across Government.

Despite the fact Western Australia is now absorbing the full effects of the Asian economic downturn and faces tighter economic conditions over the coming year, the budget delivers economic stability and improving social benefits for our community.

There are significant rises in investment in our economic and social infrastructure with priority being given to health, education and law and order.

We are also increasing our total capital works program by $600 million to a record $3.3 billion to help stimulate the economy and create more job opportunities at a time when private investment growth has weakened.

We have also kept increases in taxes and charges to a minimum and, again, there are no increases in electricity and gas charges.

This is a budget that continues to deliver responsible financial management and at the same time acknowledges the need for extra money in priority areas.

THE development of the RFA for our south west forest has been an intense time with fierce debate and considerable emotion involved.

This issue has never been black and white but the final agreement is one that achieves a good balance between jobs and the protection of important forests.

The main aims of the RFA are:

• To protect environmental values in a world class reserve system which is based on nationally agreed criteria and is comprehensive, adequate and representative of the forests’ biodiversity, old growth, wilderness and other natural and cultural values

• To encourage job creation and growth in forest-based industries, including wood products, tourism and minerals

• To manage all native forests in a sustainable way.

It is interesting to note the former Labor Government approved a jarrah sawlog cut of 594,000 cubic metres in 1987. In 1992 they were still approving a cut of 520,000 cubic metres.

Under the Coalition Government the annual contracted level of jarrah sawlog cut will reduce to 286,000 cubic metres from 2004. That is a reduction of 45 per cent since 1993.

The RFA process sees the creation of 12 new national parks, extension to 25 existing national parks, 90 new conservation reserves, an increase of 150,000 hectares in conservation reserves and an additional 45,000 hectares of old growth forests are being protected.

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