I'll go it alone, warns Crook
Peter KerAugust 24, 2010
LABOR has little chance of wooing a West Australian independent National Party MP into a power-sharing arrangement after refusing to budge on the controversial mining tax.
The new member for O'Connor, Tony Crook, is virtually another crossbench MP in the hung Parliament as the WA National vows to remain separate from east coast Coalition partners without funding commitments for rural WA.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday she was keen to talk with Mr Crook but insisted she would not be swayed by his strong opposition to the new mining tax.
"I'm of course happy to talk to Mr Crook, but the agreement for the minerals resource rent tax will be honoured," she said.
Mr Crook said later in Perth a deal was therefore out of the question. "It is unfortunate Ms Gillard said the mining tax is still on the table."
Mr Crook said he had two demands: abolition of the mining tax, and a deal for the Commonwealth to match, dollar for dollar, the amount of money spent in rural WA under a state government scheme called Royalties for Regions, which ensures that 25 per cent of all mining royalties gained by the WA government must be spent in rural areas.
Last year the policy was worth just under $900 million - dramatically less, Mr Crook claimed, than the amount of money promised for infrastructure projects in the eastern states during the campaign, such as Labor's proposed suburban rail link between Epping and Parramatta in Sydney.
"Western Australia has been used as a money pit to honour election promises by both major parties," he said.
Mr Crook said he had received phone calls from Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and independent MP Bob Katter in the previous 48 hours, and plans to travel to Canberra for power-sharing talks.
Despite attempts by National Party figures in the eastern states to downplay the chances of Mr Crook separating from the rest of the party, Mr Crook remained adamant that he would go through with his threat to serve as an independent WA National MP.
"I'm more than happy to sit outside the party room, more than happy to sit outside the Coalition if that is what it takes," he said.