The federal government has dismissed as ‘‘scaremongering’’ reports it has indefinitely frozen a promised $1 billion regional development fund.
Federal cabinet reportedly had decided to freeze future grant rounds under the Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) in a bid to return the budget to surplus in 2012/13.
The decision prompted rural independents Rob Oakshott and Tony Windsor to voice their concerns to Regional Development Minister Simon Crean, News Limited said.
Upgrades to the old Warilla police station and Crown St Mall are to be funded under the scheme.
But Mr Crean says the government is committed to rolling out the remaining two rounds of funding, worth about $600 million.
‘‘We will honour our agreement, we have honoured all of our agreements,’’ he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
‘‘This is just another example of scaremongering, hollow scaremongering at that.’’
Mr Crean said the government was not freezing but doing a ‘‘stocktake’’ of all the programs under the RDAF to better coordinate and prioritise funding.
Nationals senate leader Barnaby Joyce earlier called on Mr Crean to confirm the funding.
‘‘Is that money still on the table or has it gone?’’ he told reporters.
‘‘If it’s gone, doesn’t that mean that maybe Mr Oakshott and Mr Windsor should suggest that the Labor party’s gone?’’
Mr Crean rejected Senator Joyce’s assertion that money from the fund had been redirected to pay for the government’s promised dental health program.
He said the RDAF is being funded by the minerals resource rent tax.