WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt bemoans budget education shortfall

Ben Wyatt at Brownlie Towers. Picture: Bruce Hunt d464048
Ben Wyatt at Brownlie Towers. Picture: Bruce Hunt d464048

WESTERN Australian Treasurer Ben Wyatt has criticised the federal budget after being handed a $417 million black hole in education funding and a $100 million health cut that makes his task of repairing the state’s own beleaguered budget more difficult.

The tax hike through the Medicare levy increase would hit the cost of living of Western Australians, which he had to be mindful of when he delivered his own first budget as Treasurer in September which he warned would involve tough decisions.

Despite the WA Labor government having a win in getting $1.2 billion for its Metronet project to expand the Perth rail system, that was merely a reallocation of existing federal funds from the Perth Freight Link road project.

New Premier Mark McGowan dumped that project as quickly as voters dumped the two-term Liberal Nationals government under Colin Barnett on March 11.

The only new infrastructure money WA has received is $226 million in top-up money for its low share of the nation’s GST.

“Having to find effectively nearly half a billion dollars over the forward estimates is a problem,” he told reporters.

“That’s a big impact on the (state) budget and we will have to find money to fill that hole or that’s passed on through to the education system.”

Mr McGowan last week said he wanted “a better deal for Western Australia” out of the federal budget, with transport infrastructure high on its agenda.

The Turnbull government announced just that two days before Tuesday’s budget, describing the decision to redirect the money instead of fight the state government as “pragmatic”.

But it’s not that the federal Liberals are fans of the Metronet. They’re trying to avoid being wiped out in WA at the next federal election.

Sunday’s funding announcement also included extra money for other major road projects in the state, including $237 million for the Kwinana Freeway.

The Turnbull government has also moved to smooth anger over the contentious GST distribution issue, by announcing a new Productivity Commission inquiry.

WA’s share will languish at 34 cents for every dollar raised this year compared to about or above the 100 cent mark for the rest of the country, with Victoria and NSW around 90 cents.