I was in Perth at the weekend. It was my eighth trip to Western Australia since the election (not counting the outstanding holiday Chloe and I had in Broome). It doesn’t matter where I am when I visit — Mt Lawley or Rivervale, Freo or Carlisle — the number one issue people raise with me is the unfair deal WA is currently getting from GST payments.
You know what 34¢ in the dollar means in the real world.
It’s the train line that isn’t being extended, the road that isn’t being upgraded or the hospital beds that aren’t being added.
Most importantly, it’s the jobs that aren’t being created.
No one in the West is interested in a long lecture from Canberra on horizontal fiscal equalisation, or relativities or reviews.
That’s what politicians talk about as a way to delay action.
When 200 couples are leaving the State each week, and when 100,000 locals are looking for work, you know the bottom line is pretty simple — WA needs more investment and more jobs.
At the weekend I announced that if I’m privileged to be elected prime minister, I will set up a Fair Share for WA Fund — and I’ll invest $1.6 billion in WA in my first Budget.
This extra money will bring funding for WA up to the equivalent of a 70¢ GST floor.
That means better infrastructure and more jobs for Western Australia — in the suburbs and in the regions.
While the Liberals have made vague mentions about a GST floor that they can’t explain and won’t commit to, my WA Labor team has been hard at work behind the scenes.
We’ve been working closely with Premier Mark McGowan and consulting with WA’s business leaders to develop a policy that is as good as a 70¢ floor and is backed up with real dollars.
I know that my plan isn’t going to make everyone happy — but everyone knows it’s an improvement on the rotten deal that WA is currently getting.
This is the first real solution to WA’s funding shortfall.
From Labor’s first Budget in 2019, more money will flow to your State for job-creating infrastructure projects.
Importantly, these projects will be decided in agreement with the WA Government, on the advice of local business and the community.
No more FIFO lectures from Canberra.
No more politicians from the east declaring what’s good for the west.
We want you to tell us what’s best for your State.
And it’s paid for. We can afford this because we’ve made the hard decisions to save money in other areas — such as cracking down on tax loopholes for the very wealthy and opposing the Government’s tax cuts for multinational companies.
Predictably, the Turnbull Government has rushed out and opposed my plan for a fairer deal for WA.
It’s disappointing that the Liberals in Canberra can’t give up the politics for five minutes and see this for what it is — a better deal for Western Australia.
I read Scott Morrison’s article in The West Australian on Monday.
There was a lot of negativity but no solution.
And the Liberals in Perth have given up on the Liberals in Canberra doing anything to help.
They’re talking about taking their colleagues to the High Court.
I’m not interested in picking fights with the Liberals, and I’m not interested in another cross-country argument about which States win or lose from the GST.
I reject the argument that the only way to make WA better off is to make the rest of Australia worse off — or that you can help the other States only by hurting WA.
No more buck-passing. No more blame games. Just money when it’s needed, where it’s needed.
Everyone knows there’s a problem with WA’s share of the GST.
But what’s the point of recognising the problem if you don’t do anything to fix it?
The ball is now in Mr Turnbull’s court. He shouldn’t fly to WA without a solution for the GST shortfall.
It’s as simple as that.
I’d be happy for Malcolm to copy my plan and implement it straight away.
You shouldn’t have to wait for another election until there’s a better deal for WA. But my pledge is clear — if the other bloke won’t fix this, I will.
This opinion piece was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday, 30 August 2017