North-West residents had every reason to be alarmed by recent comments from Liberal frontbencher Richard Lewis condemning continued State Government subsidies for Stateships.
North-West Minister Ernie Bridge said the Liberals had a total disregard for the welfare of people in remote areas.
"They seem to view them as statistics, do a few sums, and conclude that taxpayer money is being wasted on them, conveniently forgetting that people in the North-West are taxpayers too," he said.
"Mr Lewis and his colleagues have absolutely no understanding of the importance of Stateships to the North-West. Its loss would be disastrous, leading to big cost increases when people can least afford it."
The Government-run shipping service carries everything from groceries and beverages to building materials, consumer goods, vehicles and machinery to the North-West, with the Government subsidising about 48 per cent of the service's cost.
Stateships also provides direct competition to road transport, and the loss of that competition would be expected to impact on present pricing levels.
"The North-West is an area of huge development potential, and we should be doing everything possible to encourage people to live and work there," he said.
"If prices go through the roof, as would occur without Stateships, it would spell the end for many local businesses and residents.
"The timing of this latest attack shows how out of touch they are. Industries from Carnarvon to the Kimberley are looking at expansion and new initiatives, and the Liberals are talking about a reduction in services."
Mr Bridge said new avenues for trade were constantly being investigated, with a focus on nearby export markets which could be serviced by Stateships.
"If you took away Stateships, it would be enormously difficult in the future to re-start a service to capitalise on those markets.
"If the Liberals were ever in Government, the North-West would go into reverse gear."