Labor leader Bill Shorten has stepped up pressure on the Turnbull government by pledging to create a $1.6 billion fund for Western Australia that would make up for the shortfall in the state’s GST share.
The cash-strapped West Australian government has been demanding changes to the rate it gets of 34 cents in the dollar and Mr Shorten told WA Labor’s state conference in Perth that it was a “dud deal”.
Mr Shorten said Labor’s Fair Share for WA Fund would increase Canberra’s funding to the equivalent of a 70-cent floor and it would be put into law with a guarantee that all proceeds would be invested into WA infrastructure projects.
“I plan on being the first prime minister to fix the problem,” Mr Shorten said.
“I challenge Mr Turnbull – if you think you can do better, come across and tell us how,” he said.
“I can’t help Western Australia until the day after the next election. He can help them on Monday.”
WA Premier Mark McGowan said the pledge was a “giant leap forward” but acknowledged it fell short of the $10 billion the state is seeking under a per capita GST system.
“I’d like to see more in time, obviously,” Mr McGowan said.
Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann told reporters Mr Shorten was making an unfunded promise.
“We have seen this before,” Senator Cormann said. “We have seen Kevin Rudd who came to WA in 2007 promising a WA infrastructure fund with $100 million a year. Never happened. WA never saw a cent. He never delivered. Wayne Swan came here in 2010, promised a $2 billion WA infrastructure fund, to be funded from the mining tax supposedly. Never happened. WA never saw a cent.
“It is now Bill Shorten’s turn to fly in, make a promise years down the track, which he is not able to explain how he would pay for.
“He says it is going to be paid for out of his $150 billion in higher taxes. He has already spent that money and more. He can’t spend money several times over. Something that he clearly does not understand.”
Senator Cormann said the bottom line was that Labor was doing nothing to fix the GST sharing arrangements.