Nationals Leader Brendon Grylls has described the Pilbara as a “basket case” because of government failures to plan for its growth, leaving its 50,000 residents to live with a raw deal.
Mr Grylls, the Regional Development Minister who hopes to become the member for Pilbara at the March 9 State election after switching seats from Central Wheatbelt, told a meeting of local government representatives and senior public servants yesterday that the region’s residents were being reduced to tears by high rents and inadequate services.
In a speech talking up the Government’s Royalties for Regions-funded $85 million SuperTowns program, Mr Grylls described the Pilbara as “the quintessential example of a basket case”.
“It wasn’t planned and then the community has had to put up with what they’ve got and struggle with it,” Mr Grylls said.
“I’ve been in politics for 12 years. I’ve had more people cry in meetings with me in the Pilbara in the past 12 months than I’ve ever had in my full political career. And they’re crying because of the failure of government.
“They’re crying because having rents of $2000 a week when you’re a small business owner means you’re probably going to lose your business because you can’t afford employees.
“Just this week a lady in Port Hedland was crying because she ... a client of hers had to move out of his current accommodation and now has to struggle his way up the stairs in an apartment in Port Hedland because that’s the only option he’s got.
“We’re actually better than that. We’re wealthier, we’re richer and we’re better than providing those sorts of s… outcomes to people that call WA home, and especially in places that are driving the State and national economies.”
Labor MLA for Pilbara Tom Stephens, who will retire at the election, said the speech was an admission of failure and instead of contesting the seat Mr Grylls should resign.
“He’s been in the driving seat for four-plus years, with a policy commitment to fix it,” Mr Stephens said.
“He’s blaming everyone for their failures, but he’s a senior Government minister with direct responsibility for land release and regional development.
“He’s become part of the problem, not part of the solution.”
Mr Grylls’ Labor opponent, Port Hedland mayor Kelly Howlett, could not be reached for comment.