A VITAL disability support service in Griffith has been dealt a massive blow after the new Liberal government reneged on a half-million-dollar grant promised just days out from the election.
Earlier this month, Griffith Post School Options (GPSO) was in celebration mode when the then-minister for regional Australia, Catherine King, announced funds would be provided to build a new multi-purpose centre.
At the time, Ms King said it was not an “election promise” and the funds had been signed off before the government went into caretaker mode.
But the future of new facility, which was due to be built in Olympic Street between the Griffith PCYC and The Area News building, now hangs in the balance after National MP Michael McCormack revealed the money was not available.
“It is being viewed as an election promise rather than something that has been budgeted for,” he said.
“From what I can ascertain, there is no money there for it. I am seeking more information.
“It is a problem. It means a disability service at Narrandera will miss out too.
“Regional Development Australia fund round 5A is also being viewed as an election promise. Money has not been set aside in the budget.
“Labor said they were budget commitments, but I do believe they were contingent on revenue from the mining tax and that didn’t reap the rewards they had hoped.”
GPSO service manager Roy Catanzariti said the news was “devastating”.
But Mr Catanzariti said the service, which provides training, employment pathways and respite care to residents with a disability, would not give up.
“We’ve been fighting for this facility for a long time because we know it is needed in Griffith,” he said.
“It is frustrating. We’ve put a lot of work in. Of course we’d rather it happen now rather than later, but it doesn’t mean we will give up.
“Mr McCormack hasn’t given us a definitive answer and until I know 100 per cent – it’s a waiting game for us.”
Labor candidate for Riverina Tim Kurylowicz said if the funding was cut the government should “hang their heads in shame”.
“The fact is this money was in the budget and if it is cut, that is revoking an act of a previous government,” Mr Kurylowicz said.
“It’s not normal for an incoming government to undo funds another government has committed prior to an election.
“It’s appalling and any excuse they try to make would be hard to swallow.”
In a statement released late last week, acting Shadow Minister for Regional Australia Catherine King said by announcing it will axe the Department of Regional Australia the new Coalition government has reinforced its historical neglect of regional Australia.