Why 2019 is not a year we can be com­pla­cent

The West Australian - - OPINION - Mike Na­han Mike Na­han is the State Op­po­si­tion Leader

While the first half of 2019, in a po­lit­i­cal sense, will no doubt be dom­i­nated by the May Fed­eral elec­tion, it will not be a time for a com­pla­cent ap­proach to State pol­i­tics. The cur­rent State Gov­ern­ment al­ready has a not-so-proud his­tory of us­ing the cover of “news black spots” to roll out un­pop­u­lar poli­cies and as it ap­proaches the half-way point of its term will un­doubt­edly want any re­main­ing con­tentious an­nounce­ments put to bed be­fore the 2021 State poll.

In the tra­di­tion of Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Sue Ellery’s an­nounce­ment be­fore Christ­mas 2017 that the School of the Air and re­gional res­i­den­tial col­leges would close, Fish­eries Min­is­ter Dave Kelly de­cided pre-Christ­mas 2018 to throw the rock lob­ster in­dus­try — and the hun­dreds of fam­i­lies work­ing in it — into chaos and na­tion­alise 17 per cent of their catch.

It is now clear that like the de­ci­sion to close Moora Col­lege, School of the Air, Lands­dale Farm School and the Herds­man Lake Wildlife Cen­tre, the de­ci­sion to na­tion­alise the cray fish­ing in­dus­try will not be taken lightly by those af­fected or the wider com­mu­nity.

I am con­fi­dent that by work­ing to­gether with those af­fected, as we did with the Perth Modern School com­mu­nity, the Moora Col­lege Com­mu­nity, the School of the Air com­mu­nity and the gold-min­ing in­dus­try, we can force a back­flip by the McGowan Gov­ern­ment on this lat­est shoddy de­ci­sion. In 2017, thou­sands of re­gional peo­ple who rely on Com­mu­nity Re­source Cen­tres for ac­cess to gov­ern­ment ser­vices found that by join­ing their voice with the Lib­eral Op­po­si­tion they could pre­vent fund­ing cuts to their CRC.

Like­wise, surfers and ocean users who saw po­ten­tial ben­e­fits in de­ploy­ing smart drum lines to pre­vent shark at­tacks learnt that a bad de­ci­sion by the McGowan Gov­ern­ment need not be fi­nal.

Look­ing for­ward, there are many is­sues that, de­spite the se­cre­tive na­ture and op­er­a­tion of the McGowan Gov­ern­ment, are bub­bling to the sur­face. In­for­ma­tion re­leased to the Op­po­si­tion at the di­rec­tion of the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner shows the Gov­ern­ment it­self had con­cerns about a $206 mil­lion con­tract with Chi­nese telco Huawei to de­liver a com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work for our trains.

The in­for­ma­tion re­vealed what the Gov­ern­ment re­fused to tell Par­lia­ment: there are sig­nif­i­cant se­cu­rity con­cerns around the con­tract, of which the Gov­ern­ment was well aware. The Gov­ern­ment must re­visit this con­tract in the in­ter­ests of the State’s se­cu­rity.

Like­wise, the Premier and Trea­surer must fo­cus on nur­tur­ing our frag­ile econ­omy and re­visit poli­cies that have dam­aged im­por­tant sec­tors such as con­struc­tion, tourism and in­ter­na­tional ed­u­ca­tion and left house­holds reel­ing un­der an av­er­age $700 in­crease in fees and charges.

The un­em­ploy­ment rate in WA is now the high­est in the na­tion and sub­stan­tially higher than when Premier McGowan swept to of­fice on a prom­ise of jobs cre­ation.

Dwelling con­struc­tion has col­lapsed from a fore­cast 4.75 per cent in­crease to -4.0 per cent on the back of the State Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sions to abol­ish the First Home Owner Grant Boost and in­tro­duce the For­eign In­vestor Sur­charge.

The de­ci­sions to merge Tourism WA into a mega de­part­ment, cut­ting tourism fund­ing in real terms and re­mov­ing in­ter­na­tional stu­dent in­cen­tives have di­rectly im­pacted tourism, re­sult­ing in a $181 mil­lion re­duc­tion in vis­i­tor ex­pen­di­ture and more than 1200 jobs lost in 2017-18.

De­spite be­ing the re­cip­i­ent of some un­prece­dented Fed­eral fund­ing wind­falls — $4.7 bil­lion in GST and $1.8 bil­lion in in­fra­struc­ture fund­ing — the McGowan Gov­ern­ment is yet to bring down a Bud­get that gives a clear path to fund­ing its ex­trav­a­gant elec­tion prom­ises while pay­ing down debt, de­liv­er­ing sur­pluses and main­tain­ing front-line ser­vices. Even with wind­falls, net debt un­der the McGowan Gov­ern­ment has risen al­most $6 bil­lion to $37.9 bil­lion.

The Trea­surer has fac­tored into his eco­nomic fore­casts the Fed­eral funds for in­fra­struc­ture but has not fully al­lo­cated the State’s con­tri­bu­tion.

Once the Gov­ern­ment does this, its abil­ity to de­liver on its fi­nan­cial com­mit­ments will se­ri­ously come into ques­tion. And achiev­ing the re­duc­tions in ex­pen­di­ture growth fore­cast for the next three years are im­pos­si­ble without wreak­ing havoc across gov­ern­ment agen­cies and slash­ing crit­i­cal front-line ser­vices. For its part, the Lib­eral Op­po­si­tion will con­tinue to hold the Gov­ern­ment to ac­count.

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