A Fair Go in the Federal Budget a must for WA and a test for WA Liberals

Published on Mon 1 May 2017 10:26am

Next week’s federal budget will be a stern test of whether the Turnbull government has begun to wake up to the needs of Western Australia instead of taking this state for granted.

The first test is to see every single dollar of the $1.2 billion allocated to the ridiculous Perth Freight Link kept in the budget and made available for transport projects identified through a proper process by the WA Labor government. In my electorate this includes the Community Connect South project, the Thornlie-Cockburn rail link, and the long-awaited upgrade of the Stirling Highway/High Street intersection.

The second test is to see a substantial GST top-up payment, which has to be made without strings attached. The Productivity Commission review of the GST system does not remove the need for WA to receive fair compensation for the dismal return of GST to the state under the current broken formula.

The third test is to see appropriate provision made for additional school and early childhood education funding. The Barnett government carried more than $1 billion in the last WA budget over the forward estimates in anticipation of an expected redistribution starting in the 2017/18 year. The Turnbull government has to make good on those funds or else WA will again miss out on its fair share.

The fourth test is whether we see clear detail on WA’s fair share of future Defence ship-building. So far all the meaningful projects, infrastructure, and training funds have been allocated to Minister Pyne’s home state of South Australia, without so much as a murmur from his WA colleagues. We need to receive a guarantee that at least ten of the Offshore Patrol Vessels will be built in WA, and that we see the lion’s share of the sustainment work on the Future Submarine Project occurs here too.

Early indications are that WA Liberals haven’t moved on from the fudging and game-playing that have characterised their complacency for far too long. No one spoke up to say 34 cents in the dollar of GST was unacceptable, or that Prime Minister Turnbull’s promise to fix the problem was a fraud. No one spoke up when Minister Paul Fletcher threatened to withdraw the PFL funds altogether if WA elected Mark McGowan as Premier. No one spoke up when Minister Christopher Pyne visited defence ship-building facilities in my electorate without even bothering to contact the WA Minister for Defence Industry.

It was highly amusing last week to see Senator Linda Reynolds ‘call’ on the McGowan government to make the Thornlie-Cockburn rail link a priority, when of course that project is a centrepiece of the Metronet plan that WA Labor has championed since 2011.

We’ve had quite enough of Liberal attempts to claim, package, and rename projects funded by the previous federal government, and we’re not interested in attempts to concoct last-minute enthusiasm for WA Labor priorities. Western Australia has had enough of the smoke and mirrors. It’s time for the Turnbull government to change its tune when it comes to WA, and that starts with next week’s budget.

If we don’t see real funding for WA transport priorities, GST top-up payments, school funding, and Defence ship-building, then no amount of fancy footwork will disguise the fact that the WA Liberals believe they can keep playing Western Australia for fools.

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