WA Nationals leader Brendon Grylls vows he’ll “fight to the death” to save the integrity of his prized Royalties for Regions program after Labor joined the Liberals in revealing plans to milk the multibillion-dollar fund.
Labor’s financial management plan, released on Thursday, shows $631 million from the program as sources of capital funding to June 30, 2020, implying the money might be plundered to help pay for projects like Metronet.
Royalties for Regions promotes and facilitates economic, business and social development in regional areas of the state worth four billion dollars between 2015-16 and 2019-20.
The Labor plan came to light a day after the Liberals said they would use $800 million from the fund to finance regional services currently paid for from the consolidated account like water and buses, if re-elected.
Mr Grylls said Labor’s plan was pretty sketchy but appeared to confirm what the Nationals had been long expecting.
“When I came back to the leadership in August, I said the finances were under enormous pressure, the GST share was a disgrace. A week after that, Malcolm Turnbull admitted it was a disgrace and since, he’s crab-walked away from that promise” he told AAP.
“I said ‘without any revenue source, both Labor and Liberal will have to attack Royalties for Regions to get the budget back to stability’.
“The Labor party are going to play around with it, the Liberal party are going to play around with it, country people know that the Nationals will fight to the death to keep it.”
Mr Grylls said both major parties were too scared to back his proposal to increase the iron ore lease rental paid by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto and would rather anger regional WA. He also predicted metropolitan taxpayers would be tapped to help fill the budget black hole.
“Come the next budget, Mark McGowan or Colin Barnett are going to have to explain why they’re putting up power, water and sewerage, bus fares, rates – every other government fee and charge and protecting BHP and Rio Tinto,” he said.
“And at that stage, voters will have baseball bats out.”
Earlier on Friday, Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said Royalties for Regions would stay and funding levels would remain the same.
But he was evasive when asked whether Labor would tap into the program to make savings in consolidated revenue.
“The real issue around Royalties for Regions is this: Mr Grylls and Mr Barnett have knives at each others’ throats and you can’t have a government after Saturday in which the two senior partners are at basically war with one another,” Mr McGowan told reporters.