MEMBERS of Griffith Post School Options (GPSO) have vowed they will not back down from their fight to secure funding, while the government continues to play a blame game over where the $500,000 has gone.
The vital disability support service was granted Regional Development Australia (RDA) funding for a new purpose-built facility at the start of September but the future of the centre now hangs in the balance.
Since the Coalition government was elected, the RDA has been abolished and the promised funds have seemingly disappeared.
Bitterly disappointed GPSO service manager Roy Catanzariti has called on the politicians to “stop lying” and own up to where the money has gone.
Member for Riverina Michael McCormack claimed the funding was merely an election promise and had not been budgeted.
But former minister for regional Australia Catherine King – now shadow minister – said the money was included in the May budget and was signed off before the government went into caretaker mode.
“They’re saying it wasn’t budgeted, but that’s simply not true. The May budget contained all the money for the RDA fund,” said Ms King, who is now shadow minister for regional Australia.
“The money was there and the new government needs to explain where it has gone.”
Ms King said it was likely the funds would be re-allocated to other projects and announced as Liberal government initiatives.
“They should have told the truth before the election and told every community this funding had been cut,” she said.
“Why is it ok for some projects to be funded but not this one? It’s important for the region and it’s something the community has wanted for years.”
Mr McCormack said he “would love” for Griffith – and dozens of other communities across the Riverina – to receive their funding but maintained it was not budgeted.
He said Labor’s $19 billion deficit was not acceptable.
“The Coalition can’t go around refurbishing theatres and building swimming pools and sporting sheds when there’s that sort of deficit,” Mr McCormack said.
“There were no contracts exchanged and no money flowed.”
Mr Catanzariti said he just wanted some clear answers and he refused to back down and accept the money was not there.
“Let’s not play games here – this is people’s lives that are being affected,” Mr Catanzariti said.
“We just want to know for certain where the money has gone.
“I’m pretty sure they’re hoping this will all just blow over but we have great community support
behind us and we won’t back down – we want what was promised to us.”
In 2007, the incoming Labor government honoured the Liberal government’s promised funding allocations to regional Australia and Mr Catanzariti has called on the new government to do the same.
“We put our heart and soul into that application, we filled in every criterion,” he said.
“To be so excited then to be let down like this – but we’re not going to stop.”