Former and current treasurers clash horns

Former and current treasurers clash horns

The Member for Riverton Mike Nahan said education cuts, which affect a program at Willetton Senior High School, were an insult to parents. Photograph - Aaron Van Rongen.

The Member for Riverton Mike Nahan has accused the State Government of reckless spending after it announced statewide education cuts.

Dr Nahan said the government’s decision to scrap selected education programs to save more than $60 million could not be justified given it had promised much more expensive projects.

“It insults parents to say these cuts are about budget repair when the treasurer last week admitted he had blown the budget within three months of bringing it down,” he said.

The changes will mean that from 2019, Gifted and Talented programs at Willetton Senior High School and Kelmscott Senior High School will see combined funding cuts of $250,000; Canning College will only take on overseas students; holiday swimming lessons will more than double in price for families without concession cards; and regional school programs will be cut or scaled back.

Dr Nahan said Labor election promise projects like a Pilbara waterfront development, which is expected to cost more than $100 million, could have been sacrificed instead of making the education cuts.

“Our children’s education is being sacrificed to pay for Labor election promises such as a $112 million dollar revitalisation of the Port Hedland waterfront in the marginal seat of Pilbara, a $19 million wave farm in the marginal seat of Albany and a biomass farm and $20 million future fund in the marginal seat of Collie-Wellington.”

However Education Minister Sue Ellery said she regretted having to announce the cuts.

Minister Ellery said Dr Nahan’s party’s opposition to a recent proposal to increase royalties paid on gold mining – which was touted by the government to generate more than $330 million in extra revenue over four years – had not helped

The proposal fell flat due to opposition from the Liberal Party and crossbenchers, and Ms Ellery said the government had to look elsewhere for savings.

“This has meant other parts of the community, like education, have been forced to shoulder more of the burden,” she said.

“When the dollars are stretched to the limit, the State Government – like every responsible business and household – has to do things differently.

“This has not been easy, but tough decisions have had to be made to get WA’s finances back on track.”

Wyatt rejects criticism

Treasurer Ben Wyatt hit back at Dr Nahan after his criticisms of the State Government’s decision.

“If there was any anger to be felt by WA families then the person that anger should be directed at would be opposition leader Mike Nahan,” he said.

“His party voted against an increase of 1.25 per cent to gold royalty which would have raised $400 million for the state.”

“The state simply can’t afford to continue to live beyond its means and if Mike Nahan isn’t going to get behind an effort to fix the state it means that some unpopular decisions will need to be made.”

Mr Wyatt said the government had reluctantly announced the cuts, but believed they would keep the state on track to return to surplus by 2021.