GST fix credit to WA


The Sunday Times - - News - KATE CAMP­BELL

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.

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