WA fares well in Federal Budget: Wyatt

WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt. Picture: AAP
WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt. Picture: AAP

WESTERN Australia has been treated well in the Federal Budget for the first time in years, reflecting seats in play in the looming federal election, state Labor Treasurer Ben Wyatt says.

After Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week announced a $1.6 billion commitment for “congestion-busting” metropolitan and major regional road projects in WA, Mr Wyatt said there were no surprises in Tuesday’s budget.

“The budget highlights the fact WA is in play,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“What I want to see and expect to see is more of this over the election campaign where both Labor and the Liberal party continue to make commitments to WA.

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“The Commonwealth is interested in us clearly because we have seats that are vulnerable.”

States didn’t have the same tax levers as the Commonwealth so were always keen for infrastructure cash, which freed them up to invest in other assets, he said.

While the federal government traditionally limited 80 per cent contributions to regional road projects, it has now started chipping in at that level for metropolitan roads including Tonkin Highway, which set a positive precedent, Mr Wyatt said.

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“We’d like to see more of that,” he said.

“We can now reallocate some money from Tonkin Highway into other assets.”

Mr Wyatt said the state government would advocate for 80 per cent Commonwealth cash for metropolitan level crossings and bridges, and was also, as always, arguing for more recurrent spending for education and hospitals.

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“We have seen a small increase in our National Partnership expectations under health, which is good, but this is an ongoing conversation – it never concludes.”

He said big write-downs in the overall GST pool would reduce the state’s share by about $1 billion across the forward estimates, reflecting headwinds facing retail spending, dwelling investment and overall growth in the economy, but there was not much the federal government could do about that.