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All gone

Monday, 4th November, 2013

By Darrin Manuel

Several major community projects appear destined for the scrapheap after the Federal Coalition Government confirmed that it will strip the city of $409,000 in funding.

The money was promised by the former Labor government as part of the fifth round of funding via the Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF).

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader, Warren Truss, stated last week that no RDAF projects would be funded unless councils had already signed contracts to begin work.

He described the RDAF as a “cruel con” and said that money for the projects never existed due to the failure of Labor’s mining tax.

Unfortunately, City Council received no contracts before the federal leadership changed hands, meaning three big projects will get no funding.

Of the promised $409,000, Council had planned to spend:

* $160,000 at the Living Desert, sealing roads around the popular tourist attraction to allow all-weather access. Construction of a single storey manager’s hut and office was also planned, along with the installation of camping facilities with a communal kitchen area and solar powered showers and toilets, and a boom gate.

* $45,000 to refurbish the Memorial Oval canteen. The canteen has been inspected and determined by the health inspector as unsatisfactory for the preparation and sale of food.

* $205,000 to create a pathway and bridges in the Mulga Creek wetlands to improve public access to the site.

Council’s General Manager, Therese Manns, described the loss of funding as “a real shame for the Broken Hill community.”

But Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, was far more scathing in his assessment of the situation.

“Mr Abbott and Mr Truss have been in office for only a few weeks but they are already destroying jobs and short-changing regions,” said Mr Albanese.

“This is despite their pre-election promises of ‘no surprises’ and no cuts that would destroy jobs.

“Whether it is a swimming pool, footy oval or a community centre upgrade, every cut hurts.”

Mr Albanese also refuted the coalition’s claim that money for the projects never existed.

“The RDAF round five grants were announced in June 2013 and funded in the 2013-14 budget... Despite this, Mr Truss has attempted to mislead Australians by claiming the money does ‘not exist’.

“It is bad enough that Mr Truss won’t stand up for regional communities, but he is also attempting to mislead people to conceal the Coalition’s mania for spending cuts regardless of the social and economic consequences.”

The decision not to honour the funding promises goes against the Nationals’ Policy Platform, which states that the party “will ensure that government does not hinder the development of prosperous regional communities.”

The funding cut is also likely to affect a number of projects in the Central Darling Shire - in White Cliffs, Wilcannia, Menindee, Ivanhoe, Tilpa, Sunset Strip and Copi Hollow.

The BDT is awaiting a response from the Shire Council to determine which projects will be affected.

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