Bud­get woes need for­ti­tude

Great Southern Herald - - Opinion -

Mark Mc­Gowan is forc­ing West Aus­tralian house­holds to fix the Bud­get by re­fus­ing to en­ter ne­go­ti­a­tions with the State’s big­gest min­ing com­pa­nies to up­date an out­dated 1960s fee in their State Agree­ments.

The stag­ger­ing in­creases to wa­ter, power, li­cences and other charges an­nounced in the past week will add $440 a year to the ex­penses col­umn of each WA house­hold, putting fur­ther pres­sure on stretched bud­gets.

This is a slap in the face for WA mums and dads, small busi­nesses and pen­sion­ers when the Pre­mier has re­fused to take up The Na­tion­als’ pol­icy of ne­go­ti­at­ing an in­crease to the 25¢ spe­cial lease ren­tal fee paid by BHP Bil­li­ton and Rio Tinto.

The ren­tal charge is not new — the min­ers have paid it for decades — nor is it a roy­alty. It is, in fact, tax de­ductible. Mr Mc­Gowan has said ev­ery­one needs to share the Bud­get bur­den, but th­ese in­creases to fees only cre­ate pain for house­holds and lit­tle gain in the deficit col­umn — just $59.5 mil­lion a year.

When you’re try­ing to knock down a pro­jected debt of $42 bil­lion, that is a pit­tance. The Na­tion­als’ pol­icy would have seen $7.2 bil­lion added to the State’s bot­tom line by in­creas­ing BHP and Rio’s out­dated ren­tal fee.

The Na­tion­als ac­cept the min­ing com­pa­nies pay a sig­nif­i­cant amount of roy­al­ties to the State and we un­der­stand the im­por­tance of the in­dus­try to WA and the na­tion.

We aren’t ad­vo­cat­ing rip­ping up State Agree­ments. But we do not ac­cept the Mc­Gowan Gov­ern­ment al­low­ing a fee struck 50 years ago to re­main un­touched for­ever while or­di­nary West Aus­tralians are asked to foot the bill.

It’s time Mr Mc­Gowan brings the min­ers to the ta­ble and stands his ground on be­half of West Aus­tralians who don’t get the op­tion of be­ing asked nicely to pay a bit more to fix the Bud­get.

Peter Run­dle Mem­ber for Roe

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