GST fix credit to WA
PREMIER BAGS EAST COAST
PREMIER Mark McGowan has labelled the Eastern States “ingrates” who resent WA in the GST bunfight, while urging them to get on board with the Federal Government’s compromise fix.
The Premier also said readers of The Sunday Times and PerthNow deserved credit for the long-awaited circuit breaker after thousands of you signed coupons and completed an online petition to pressure politicians in Canberra.
Our Fair Go for the West campaign — launched in November 2014 — gave a voice to WA households who demanded the west receive a fairer share of the GST carveup which robs billions from this State.
The pillars of the four-year crusade was that the Federal Government “Stop the Rort” by committing to long-term change and to “Stop the Drop” by ensuring WA’s share doesn’t go any lower.
Under the proposal announced this week, a 70¢ to 75¢ in the dollar floor would be set, which would deliver WA $4.7 billion in extra GST cash over eight years, including $1.4 billion over the next two years. It’s a model that leaves no State or Territory worseoff, thanks to Commonwealth funding top-ups.
“There’s been a lot of campaigning by media which has paid some dividends and I appreciate that . . . and The Sunday Times and The West Australian
were at the forefront of that,” Mr McGowan said. He said the people who deserved the most credit were West Australians who sent shockwaves and changed national attitudes over this issue when they swept the Liberals out of power last year.
“(The other States) have no appreciation for what WA does for them, in fact they resent it . . . but that’s what they are, they’re ingrates and generally insufferable about it,” he said.
“I’ve spoken to a number of them and I’d like to see them just support it so we can move on from this and get it locked into place.”
Mr McGowan said the Productivity Commission’s recommendation, which would have delivered double the return to WA, was “not politically palatable” and would not have got through.
“Getting a good outcome is great, getting a perfect outcome I think would have been impossible,” he said. “We’re still going to be subsidising the rest of the country, but the subsidy will be far, far smaller.”
Asked if it would make him reconsider hikes to fees and charges and decisions like closing Moora residential college, Mr McGowan said the key to improving WA’s finances was to pay down debt.
He said Bill Shorten needed time to consider his response, but agreed with Federal Labor that the changes should be enshrined in legislation.
He was also “confident” the cash would make it easier to return to surplus next year.
CREDIT where credit’s due. Finding a fix for the nation’s broken GST redistribution system seemed more hopeless than wishing some soccer players would stop flinging themselves to the ground in the World Cup. How to end WA’s pain and unfair treatment without cash-stripping the other States and committing electoral suicide in the process was the tricky challenge. A Galaxy Poll commissioned by this newspaper last year showed only 21 per cent of West Australians had faith in the Government to succeed.
But the Turnbull Government’s long-awaited action plan, announced on Wednesday, seems to offer the closest thing to an equitable and lasting solution.
It involves genuine reform — as opposed to cash top-ups — to ensure no State in the future has to endure such extremes as receiving less than 35¢ back for every dollar paid in GST. The other States were deaf to our complaints but the changes will protect all Australians. For that, Treasurer Scott Morrison, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and their colleagues deserve the plaudits for pulling a rabbit out of the hat.
Under the proposal, WA will get a top-up over the next three years of $2 billion, taking WA’s GST share to 70¢ in the dollar. Eventually, there will be a 75¢ floor for all States and Territories.
For this newspaper, the proposal represents a giant shaft of light after years stuck in a dark tunnel. We have campaigned doggedly on the issue since 2014 and handed out plenty of brickbats along the way. So it’s a pleasant change to give a bouquet.
We certainly applied pressure on WA’s Federal representatives, particularly those on the Government side, not to shirk the issue when away from their constituents in Canberra. We acknowledged the challenge was an extremely difficult one but rejected the defeatist notion that it was impossible to mend or that short-term cash bribes to WA were a solution.
Labor would be wise to support the fix. On issues of defence and national interest, we often see consensus across the political divide.
This has nothing to do with the nation’s defence but it has plenty to do with the national interest. Why? Because it encourages productivity and economic dynamism and puts a stop to the perverse practice of punishing success. It will help take the brakes off the economy.
It’s easy for politicians to define themselves by what they oppose. But it says more about their character when they’re prepared to back a solution from across the chamber.
Outside the Canberra bubble of adversarial party bickering, it is a turn-on for voters.
State Treasurer Ben Wyatt was quick out of the blocks on Thursday morning to support Mr Morrison’s plan. And he has the support of his leader Mark McGowan.
That’s the sort of sharp and decisive leadership we want to see more of. Of course, it’s now going to be up to State Labor how they spend the money and we’ll get to judge them accordingly.
But that is for another time.
For now, let’s take a moment to appreciate that an end to a long and often brutal slog for fair treatment is in sight.
Responsibility for editorial comment is taken by the editor, Michael Beach, 50 Hasler Road, Osborne Park, WA 6017. Postal address: PO Box 1769, Osborne Park DC, WA 6916.