Government ‘Perth-centric’

NATIONALS deputy leader Bridget McKenzie had some choice words for the WA government when she visited Busselton this month. Senator McKenzie, who is also the Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation, was in the region for The Nationals conference in Manjimup.

Senator McKenzie chose to land at the airport to meet with Busselton mayor Grant Henley and Forrest MP Nola Marino. “I think it is fantastic, not just for Busselton but for the broader region,” she said. “The South West is known across the country and internationally as a great producer of wine, beef, cherries, etc., so to be able to get that produce out of the South West, not just to Perth but over to East Coast, and accessing those markets in South East Asia is an incredible economic opportunity.” While nearly $50 million dollars of infrastructure works have been completed, the construction of the new terminal remains on hold. Following the change in government in June 2017, the state government announced a value optimisation review of the project. In February 2018, the state government requested that the city delay construction until it received a commitment from an airline to commence services.

Senator McKenzie said the federal government had been proud to support the project and slammed the state government’s inaction.

“It is very disappointing that the state government has not seen to maintain its commitment to this community and the broader region to actually finish the terminal,” she said.

“I’ll be doing everything I can, and I know my National party colleagues and my Liberal party to colleagues will to actually make sure they see, not just the value in investing in this but that it’s about equity and backing regional WA.” Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan hit back. She said it was irresponsible for the Minister to support building a terminal that no one was committed to using. “Our government is pushing hard for this project to succeed, but we cannot force airlines to come,” she said.

“We are working to secure an airline through the South West Development Commission and TourismWA, we will not apologise for holding off on spending taxpayer dollars on the new terminal without an airline secured.

Ms MacTiernan added the government had already indicated it would begin construction of the terminal if Qantas selected Busselton as the site for its second pilot academy, freeing up the existing terminal for use. “We have been lobbying hard for the academy, as it will bring real and sustainable benefit to the region. We have made an extra $1.7 million available for facilities associated with the academy, as an extra incentive to Qantas,” she said.

Source: Augusta Margaret River Mail