Western Australia’s dire finances continue to overshadow even the most meritorious of election pledges, with no quick fix to the GST carve up in sight while costly promises including no tax hikes continue to flow thick and fast.
A seemingly frustrated Premier Colin Barnett refused to say on Tuesday if he was disappointed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull giving no estimate for when a “floor” to GST allocations may be introduced.
Mr Turnbull was immediately pressed for a timeline when speaking with reporters in Perth on Monday – his first visit west since August when he told the Liberal state conference a floor would be set below which no state or territory’s share of the tax could fall.
West Australians complained loudly as the state’s share plunged to a record low of 30 cents in the dollar, but it would have to recover before a minimum level can be set, Mr Turnbull said, reiterating consensus between all jurisdictions was also needed.
Mr Barnett said he took some comfort that the prime minister referred to 70 cents during the visit, even though he had been seeking 75 cents.
“I’d accept that if that was the floor – we may reach that over the next three years,” the two-term premier said.
His comments came as he fleshed out his party’s promise to offer seniors a stamp duty concession in a bid to urge them to sell their family home and downsize.
The pledge will almost certainly win grey votes but will also cost up to $25 million in lost stamp duty revenue.
It’s not a huge amount of money in the grand scheme of an election campaign but all these promises add up, especially considering Treasurer Mike Nahan recently guaranteed a business audience the Liberals wouldn’t bring in new taxes or levies.
The party went a step further to schmooze the corporate world days later, saying it would raise the payroll tax threshold, denying government coffers of more than $55 million over the next three years if re-elected.
Opposition treasury spokesman Ben Wyatt told the same business audience Labor didn’t intend to raise taxes – adding voters disbelieved politicians when they promised no tax hikes, giving himself wriggle room.
On Tuesday, however, his leader Mark McGowan said there would not only be no new taxes, but also no tax increases.
While Labor is under pressure to reveal more details about how it is going to pay for election commitments while tackling mounting state debt and deficits, the opposition has now outlined a plan to use interest from WA’s future fund to boost medical research.
Doctors have applauded the proposal, but Dr Nahan labelled it a raid.
“It is supposed to accumulate up to 2030 and then be allocated for a variety of uses like education and research,” he said.
“It is money increasing in value.”
Labor has long criticised the fund, given it doesn’t raise much, which Mr Barnett conceded.
“It’s not a huge amount of money but it is a long-term saving for our future.”