FUNDING for the Perth Freight Link, a new anti-gangs squad and initiatives for remote indigenous communities are the most significant projects heading up federal government’s expenditure for Western Australia in the 2014 Federal Budget.
Described as the toughest since John Howard's "slash and burn" 1996 first budget, the federal government has slashed spending on health, education, welfare, foreign aid, the public service and local councils.
WA families will be slugged by cuts to the family tax benefit and increases in the cost of GP visits and petrol, while the pension age will increase to 70 buy 2035 and changes to the dole will hit unemployed under-30s.
“The government has made the difficult but necessary decisions to put the Budget on a more sustainable footing," federal member for Forrest Nola Marino said.
"Governments, like households, must live within their means."
The wins for WA come largely from infrastructure funding, with $866 million for the Perth Freight Link over the next five years to improve capacity for heavy freight movements to and from Fremantle Port.
A total of $4.7 billion is being invested in WA infrastructure projects, with the most significant for regional Western Australians being the upgrades to Great Northern Highway from Muchea to Wubin and the North West Coastal Highway from Minilnya to Barradale.
In the South West, the Busselton Regional Airport Terminal expansion project will get $500,000 from the Community Development Grants Fund.
Further infrastructure projects include the Swan Valley Bypass, Tonkin Highway upgrades and the Perth Airport Gateway, which is designed to reduce congestion around Perth airport.
The government will also contribute $10.2 million over three years from 2014-15 for the Australian Federal Police to establish a dedicated anti-gangs squad to fight organised crime.
“The Anti‑Gangs Squad will include officers from the AFP, Western Australia Police and the Australian Taxation Office, with access to the full suite of federal intelligence and operational resource,” budget papers say.
The program will be funded from the account which contains seized proceeds of crime.
The government will also contribute $500,000 over two years from 2014-15 to help stop the spread of cane toads in the Kimberley.
“Grants will be provided for the development of effective tools that reduce the spread and impact of cane toads and for community engagement activities,” budget papers say.
A share of $54.1 million over four years is being provided to construct police infrastructure in seven remote indigenous communities in Western Australia, while $18.1 million over two years will extend the Remote School Attendance Strategy.
Remote indigenous communities in Western Australia will also receive a share of $10.6 million in funding for servicing renewable energy systems.
Funding for these three indigenous community initiatives will be shared among Western Australia and a number of other states.
Australia-wide, the government will provide $101.1 million in 2014‑15 to extend income management in existing locations for one year, with trial sites beginning in Perth, the Kimberley, Laverton and the Ngaanyatjarra Lands of Western Australia.
The Western Australian Department of Education will deliver education at local schools to the children of “illegal maritime arrivals”, with the government contributing $2.6 million in 2014-15 in Tuesday’s budget.
Budget papers also have an allowance of $23.2 million to cover the cost of the unexpected re-run of the WA Senate Election.