PM vague on GST promise
Malcolm Turnbull has shied away from committing to a deadline for a WA GST floor just months after suggesting one could be introduced within four years.
The Prime Minister ducked GST questions in Perth last week despite claims by Colin Barnett that it is the most important issue facing the State.
Mr Turnbull used outdated figures to overestimate the rate at which WA’s GST share would rebound to allow a floor to be implemented.
During a press conference in Henderson to announce $100 million for upgrades to defence shipbuilding facilities, Mr Turnbull acknowledged WA’s GST share of 30¢ in the dollar was “too low” but did not outline a timetable to improve it.
He pledged at the Liberal State conference six months ago to work towards introducing a floor below which no State’s GST share could fall.
Mr Turnbull also indicated the logical time to implement the measure would be when WA’s share rebounded of its own accord to ensure no other States were left out of pocket.
At the time, WA’s share was predicted to rise to 76¢ in the dollar in 2019-20. At that rate it would be roughly in line with other States and Territories.
However, that forecast was revised down sharply to 66¢ in the dollar in December’s mid-year review and 60¢ in this month’s preelection financial projections statement from State Treasury.
Last week, the Premier said he would like more detail from Mr Turnbull on the floor and predicted the GST would be the first question the Prime Minister would be pressed on when he returned to WA.
Faced with the question last week, Mr Turnbull was non-committal. After initially insisting WA’s GST share would recover to between 70¢ and 75¢ by 2019-20, he acknowledged that higher iron ore prices would delay any rebound.
But he refused to be drawn on whether this would have any implications for the timing of a floor. And asked what rate in the dollar would be imposed, he said only it would need to be agreed to by other States. “The time to set the floor, as we have agreed, as we have acknowledged, is when there won’t be losers,” Mr Turnbull said.
“I’m the Prime Minister leading the Federal Government. “I can’t take the cause of one State against all the other jurisdictions.”
When it was suggested by the media his promise had been pushed out to the “never never”, Mr Turnbull shrugged off the criticism as “not very optimistic” and said he did not regard 2020 as very far away.
Opposition leader Mark McGowan said Mr Turnbull and Mr Barnett had failed to secure a better GST deal for WA.
“Mr Turnbull, like Mr Barnett, is completely out of touch,” he said. “What’s happened here with the so-called GST commitment is . . . Mr Turnbull is claiming victory because 37¢ in the dollar — he thinks that’s a good outcome for WA. That’s pathetic.”
WA Premier Colin Barnett, Austal chief executive David Singleton, Senator Linda Reynolds and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tour Austal at the WA Marine Complex in Henderson, WA.