Mining and Pastoral MLC Neil Thomson has slammed the State Government’s recent Budget, which he said failed to address rising rents and youth crime, as a “slap in the face” for Pilbara residents. Handed down by Premier and WA Treasurer Mark McGowan on May 12, the Budget saw a slew of announcements for the Pilbara including raising the Keystart property price cap from $650,000 to $750,000. It also featured $19.1m for the development of new residential land in two regional locations, including Karratha’s Madigan Estate. Despite this Liberal Mining and Pastoral Member Neil Thomson said the Budget did little to address housing shortages, rising rents and crime issues facing the Pilbara. “It is unbelievable that the public dentist in South Hedland is working out of a caravan and it would appear that no funding has been allocated to the Port Hedland hospital for facility upgrades, a hospital where staff walked off the job last year,” he said. “While any funding is welcomed, we have seen a stingy approach to the Pilbara noting even the expansion of services at the Karratha Hospital has already been flagged in the WA Cancer Plan in September last year.” The Budget included funding to expand the Pilbara’s health system with $10m to deliver specialist paediatric, cancer, haematology, stroke and neurology services at the Karratha Health Campus and surrounding sites as well as an additional $1.6m for the Karratha Step Up/Step Down service to address construction cost pressures, bringing the total cost to $8.8m. Mr Thomson said the biggest failure in the Budget was the lack of targeted funding to address the massive social housing waiting list and affordable housing demand across the Pilbara. “$99.4 million has been allocated for spot purchases and new builds across the whole of regional Western Australia, but that is only for government worker accommodation and that won’t go far when spread across the State over four years,” he said. “We know from experience that spot purchases can impact heavily on local markets and housing affordability, so it is essential that social and affordable housing is also in the spotlight. “This Budget is a slap in the face for the Pilbara region which has been the engine room for our economy, underpinning the 60 per cent revenue increase enjoyed by Labor since coming to power.” Mr McGowan said the Budget provided a boost to regional health and mental health, ensuring there are more doctors, nurses and resources in the Pilbara, with continued funding to manage COVID-19. Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel said the Liberal Party continued to play politics on these important issues, choosing to ignore the investments made to address local issues and improve the Pilbara. “The Pilbara is a clear focus of our $2.4 billion Statewide investment in housing and homelessness,” he said. “To March of this financial year we have added 15 new homes to the social housing stock with a further 27 at various stages of planning and delivery.” Mr Michel said major refurbishments had been contracted for 35 social homes and the Government had awarded grants to community housing organisations for refurbishments on 13 additional homes. “The recent Budget included an additional $12.5m to develop and release 62 new residential housing lots in Karratha,” he said. Mr Michel said Government was working closely with industry to produce more skilled workers to meet increasing industry demand. “Regional communities will benefit from a $2.4m Regional TAFE International Student Strategy, which responds to feedback received at the 10 Regional Skills Summits held across WA and aims to attract international students to live, work and study in regional WA,” he said. “Commencing in 2023, the initiative will provide 200 places over two years and target in-demand occupations such as aged and disability care, childcare and hospitality and tourism. “A new $5.5m program will provide expanded jobseeker support to 500 mature-age jobseekers and pilot support for 100 ex-offenders to help them into employment and support their safe transition back into the community.” Mr Michel dismissed the claim the Budget ignored the crime crisis facing the Pilbara saying the Target 120 program had been expanded to include Karratha and Newman, as well as Operation Regional Shield to tackle youth crime.