Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone visited Ceduna on Tuesday as part of his regional state budget tour.
Mr Whetstone was in Whyalla before coming to Ceduna for a discussion of the budget with the community at the Thevenard Sports and Community Club.
The Minister also made his way to the Ceduna Quarantine Station to chat with staff and visiting local Fisheries officers about their role.
Mr Whetstone said this was his first opportunity to venture to the West Coast this year where he could give a budget overview and discuss regional issues.
“This was an opportunity to address a group to give an overview of the budget, and also to give people an understanding that as an incoming government we have got regional South Australia on our radar,” he said.
“Our commitment within the budget of $773 million I think is testament that we delivering on a promise.
“Roads, mobile black spots, and roads and port infrastructure are probably the main concerns, plus while we can’t make it rain, what we can do is help farmers where we can.”
Mr Whetstone said it was important for the government to let farmers get on with their business, while providing support to the primary sector where possible.
He also spoke about the oyster industry, which is also experiencing a difficult patch, with $1.6 million committed to support the industry in waiving annual fees which Member for Flinders Peter Treloar had lobbied for.
Mr Whetstone said initiatives put in place by the state government were designed to boost the regions.
“Education and health are two critical areas that if we are going to have regions that are sustainable, attract good people and retain youth, they are the main issues to deal with, as well as stimulating our economy,” he said.
“It is important we understand the majority of the economy on the West Coast is export-driven and so we have put policy in place to promote exports, and we are also making sure we are looking at making doing business more affordable for businesses that export.
“Nowadays on the land we hire people with skills, agriculture is a highly sought after skilled workforce these days, we are not only some of the world’s best primary producers, but also producing some of the world’s best products so government needs to assist where we can with logistics.”
With the government’s mantra of putting the regions first, the Opposition had expressed concern about $36 million they said was “stripped” from Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) in the budget.
Shadow Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Eddie Hughes said it was “absolutely appalling” that with some producers experiencing a difficult season the government was taking away from the department which provided them with support and research.
Mr Whetstone said those claims were “not true”.
“I have minimised any cuts to PIRSA, there are no cuts to SARDI (South Australia Research and Development Institute) or Biosecurity SA, there have been only small cuts to the communications sector within PIRSA,” Mr Whetstone said.
“We are a government about getting on the with the job and not self-promotion, so we don’t need an army of communications people within the department – we need good, robust policy that will help our sector grow.”