Labor's Slowing Regions program

Federal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson MP has written to 11 local government authorities from his electorate that have applied for Labor’s so-called Growing Regions Program, encouraging them to make a submission to an audit of the program in light of significant delays to funding major projects.

“On behalf of their regional communities, LGAs burned the midnight oil while drafting detailed applications at short notice for the program,” Mr Wilson said.

“This hard yakka has, so far, been to no avail, as the Commonwealth has missed, by six weeks and counting, its self-nominated deadline to complete its assessment of applications and advise applicants of progress.

“Labor’s inconsistent, arbitrary and sloppy deadline management isn’t growing regions; it’s slowing regions."

Under timelines provided in the program guidelines, the assessment of applications should have been completed by the end of February 2024 and applicants advised of progress.

“Shires are telling me they’ve been kept in the dark and their budgetary cycles have been impacted by the extensive and ongoing delay,” Mr Wilson said.

“I’ve encouraged them to make a submission so the ANAO hears about this shambles of an application process.

“An inability to meet advertised deadlines at the federal level is flowing down to grass-roots regional Western Australia, which is being starved of important infrastructure and visionary public works.

“By sitting on regional grants programs and delivering nothing, Labor is hoarding cash to prop up its looming federal Budget that, as usual, will favour voters from the ALP’s inner metropolitan heartland.”

The Australian National Audit Office is conducting an audit into administration of the program, with submissions due by Sunday, June 30.

Mr Wilson’s electorate has the most local government areas, 57 in all, of any electorate in the nation, and all of them are regional.

“Regional councils and community groups have waited more than 40 weeks since Labor opened the program, and over nine months not one application has been approved and funded,” he said.

“Shires and community groups were given just 20 working days to prepare and submit initial applications, but the Albanese government has failed to complete project assessments in 250 days.”

Mr Wilson personally penned letters of support for many applications to the program.

“Albany is waiting to hear the result of its applications for funding toward a much-needed upgrade to its regional airport, and another major public realm project for its 2026 bicentenary,” he said.

“Denmark is awaiting a decision on funding for its long-awaited Ocean Beach redevelopment project, and Manjimup needs to know whether federal funding will be forthcoming for its Rea Park and Collier Street redevelopment.

“Another innovative project left in limbo by Labor’s inertia is the Wheatbelt worker housing project, which aims to build 35 houses to help address the impact the current housing crisis is having on the ability of the region’s communities to attract staff and grow local economies.

“This project is a collaboration between the shires of Tammin, Bruce Rock, Cunderdin, Trayning, Wyalkatchem, Kellerberrin and Dowerin, which have shown great initiative in teaming up; what they require right now is an expeditious funding decision.”

Mr Wilson said the shires of Lake Grace and Ravensthorpe had also lodged applications on which they were awaiting an outcome.

“Lake Grace has applied for funding toward building a new community and recreation pavilion at Lake King, and Ravensthorpe aims to upgrade its local museum to better house its exceptional artefacts and displays in a climate-controlled area,” he said.

“All projects applied for from the O’Connor electorate stand to improve the lives of regional people, and make regional shires, cities and towns more attractive places to visit and hence help to strengthen regional economies.

“Not all projects are likely to get up under Round 1 of the program, but every proposal I have seen from O’Connor has merit and the communities that developed them deserve timely advice so they can get on with developing their budgets, rather than being left dangling by Labor.”

More information on the ANAO audit is here: https://www.anao.gov.au/work/performance-audit/implementation-and-award-funding-the-growing-regions-program

Media contact: Chris Thomson (08) 9842 2777; [email protected]

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