The Federal Government’s $2 billion injection into the WA Budget is set to save the State’s taxpayers from more pain, with Treasurer Ben Wyatt saying the extra cash will help slash debt and deficit.
As Liberal MPs used the GST overhaul as a rallying cry ahead of a looming Federal election, the State Government may now be able to bring forward by a year the expected return to Budget surplus and reconsider planned increases in fees and charges.
Under the Federal proposal, WA will get a top-up over the next three years of $2 billion, starting with $814 million in the 2019-20 financial year. This will take WA’s GST share to 70¢ in the dollar.
The State Government was expecting next year’s Budget to show a deficit of $160 million. But the $814 million GST top-up puts the Budget on track for a surplus of at least $600 million.
It would be the first Budget surplus since 2013-14.
A planned extra payment of $585 million in 2020-21 would turn an expected surplus that year of $1.3 billion into almost $2 billion — just in time for the March 2021 poll.
Mr Wyatt said he would not commit to spending cash that had yet to reach State’s coffers.
But the extra money would deliver a major fiscal boost to WA. “It means that, of course, the path back to surplus becomes easier and the path to reducing debt hopefully comes sooner and that’s a good story for every Western Australian,” he said.
“Everyday Western Australians will most certainly get something out of this, and that is, of course, lower levels of debt, lower interest payments, making more money available for things like health spending, education spending, law and order, things we want to spend money on rather than increasing interest costs.”
The GST had become a millstone for the Federal Government which is not running candidates in the Perth and Fremantle by-elections this month, in part because of its poor standing in WA.
But Stirling MP and Human Services Minister Michael Keenan said the GST package drew the battlelines for the next Federal election. “I am very happy to talk about our position on the GST,” he said. “The battlelines are very clear here,” he said. “I think this will be a key battleline in Stirling, I think this will be a key battleline in Pearce, it will be a key battleline in Canning and Hasluck and everywhere else we will be fighting for our seats.”
Attorney-General Christian Porter said the package would help him hold his seat of Pearce, one of the key WA electorates being targeted by Labor. “I think this package is better for the people who live and vote in my seat and everything else that has ever been on offer that Labor would offer,” he said.
Federal Labor MP for Burt Matt Keogh said had the Government adopted the ALP policy of a 70¢ floor two years ago, WA would have been $3.5 billion better off.