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WA treasurer Ben Wyatt rules out hike to gold royalties amid record prices

WA treasurer Ben Wyatt has ruled out a hike to gold royalties as the commodity’s price surged to a record high, admitting he has learnt from a past attempt.

In 2017, miners and the State Government were locked in debate over a plan to increase royalties by 50 per cent, from 2.5 per cent an ounce to 3.75 per cent.

In a bid to improve their budget position, the State Government looked to capitalise on the State’s mineral royalty system but the plan was abandoned within the year following backlash by the mining sector.

“Look in respect to the royalties rates, we don’t have any intention to revisit that argument,” he said.

“I’ve had a couple goes at that and lost.”

This morning the spot price of gold reached $US1923.20 an ounce.

Last week WA Liberals accused the Labor Government of “sitting on a gold mine of cash” with the mining industry and called for Mr Wyatt to immediately provide an update on the State’s finances.

In respect to the royalties rates… I’ve had a couple goes at that and lost.

Shadow Finance Minister Steve Thomas claimed the Premier Mark McGowan and Mr Wyatt were holding back desperately needed stimulus in favour of stuffing an election war chest.

Dr Thomas said the additional iron ore royalties alone – with the current $US108 per tonne price nearly doubled Treasury forecasts – was larger than the McGowan Government’s stimulus spending to date.

Superpit in Kalgoorlie.
Camera IconSuperpit in Kalgoorlie. Credit: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

“That price hike has given the State Government an extra $3 billion – which is more than their COVID-19 economic response to date,” Dr Thomas said.

Yesterday Mr McGowan announced the State’s $5.5 billion coronavirus recovery plan, which focussed on boosting jobs, supporting struggling households by waiving fees and investing in renewable energy technologies.

While about $2.8 billion in stimulus had previously been announced, including as support for household fees, rent and new home construction, Mr McGowan unveiled the additional $2.7 billion on Sunday.

Mr McGowan said it contained “around 500 separate initiatives” but details of only a small handful were provided including a $66.3 million cash injection in renewable energy and a $60 million maintenance blitz of police stations, fire stations and volunteer fire stations.

On The West Live this morning Mr Wyatt told host Ben O’Shea he had learnt from his past plan and committed to not make the same mistakes.

“I don’t intend to get back into that but I’m really pleased to see the gold sector going so incredibly well,” he said.

“The gold sector has been spectacular. The gold price — I never thought I’d see the levels it’s at now.

“What I’m seeing as well is that even small gold miners are having no trouble capital raising, which highlights that there is a lot of confidence in the medium to long-term future of the gold sector.”

It comes after WA’s resource sector was highlighted for saving Australia from falling off an economic cliff in Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann “mini-budget” on Thursday.

On Friday, top WA gold mining boss Bill Beament said it was clear the resource industry was “carrying the nation”.

He said his Northern Star Resources Limited had performed well amid the virus uncertainty and was opening up jobs for West Australians.

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