Federal Budget holds no surprises for the Mid West

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Geoff VivianMidwest Times
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SKA telescope, Murchison, Western Australia.
Camera IconSKA telescope, Murchison, Western Australia. Credit: Simon Santi/The West Australian, Simon Santi

A $387 million upgrade to the Murchison’s radio telescope, $44 million for Indian Ocean Drive, and $28.7 million for renewable hydrogen at Warradage were welcome items for the Mid West in the 2021 Federal Budget.

However this held few surprises for locals as these key spending commitments had already been announced before the budget was handed down on Tuesday.

The Murchison Widefield array will be upgraded to become the long-awaited Square Kilometre Array with multiple antennae added to the remote site over a 10-year period.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the facility would help astronomers learn more about our universe while creating more than 350 jobs during construction and 230 permanent positions.

The $387 million commitment includes a $64.4 million specialist super-computing centre in Perth.

Federal Science minister Christian Porter said the SKA should attract $1.8 billion in foreign income during its first 30 years.

“An Indigenous Land Use Agreement is currently under negotiation,” he said.

Warradarge is a step closer to having a commercial-scale green hydrogen production facility to feed into the State gas network.

The project is to be co-located with the 180MW Warradarge wind farm which would provide the renewable energy to power the electrolyser.

Partners ATCO and Australian Gas Infrastructure Group are receiving $28.7 million for planning work, with a final investment decision to be announced in December.

Doctor Nalini Rao--Mullewa's only doctor.
Camera IconDoctor Nalini Rao--Mullewa's only doctor. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian

The Commonwealth has allocated $44 million to upgrade Indian Ocean Drive between the Brand Highway and Jurien Bay, with the WA Government expected to kick in an extra $11 million.

A spokeswoman for WA Transport minister Rita Saffioti said her Government would decide how much to spend on the project when it passed the State Budget later this year.

“I don’t know where they got the figure of $11 million from,” she said.

Extra money for bulk-billing rural doctors was another pre-budget announcement.

The amount of the Rural Bulk Billing Incentive is to be increased depending on how remote a doctor’s practice is located.

Mid West GP Network deputy chair Dr Ian Taylor said this was “not perfect but a good start”.

“A little financial incentive will help — it recognises the difficulties of living and working in remote areas,” he said.

“It is really difficult to get doctors to come even to centres like Geraldton.”

Dr Nalini Rao said this would work out to about $2 per patient in her Mullewa practice which she welcomed.

“As far as recruiting doctors to the bush goes I don’t think $2 is going to make much difference but it will keep more of us that are already there,” she said.

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