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15 May 2016

Another day, another devastating Liberal budget, this time for my beloved home state of Western Australia. I read with a heavy heart the outcome of the 2016/17 WA budget. We’re on a trajectory to hit $40 billion of state debt by 2017/18, which coincidentally is the same blowout amount of the Federal budget.

What does that mean? Apart from the Liberal party being terrible money managers, it means that people in WA will be hit the hardest. Someone has to pay, and we know it will be the hard working Western Australians that will to foot the bill. Those same Western Australians who are already doing it tough with the downturn in the mining industry, increasing unemployment (expected to climb to 6.72 per cent through 2016/17) and increasing underemployment. Those same Western Australians who are already feeling the burden of reduced expenditure on education, health and infrastructure, including public transport. That said, they did deliver the Elizabeth Quay, a vanity project plagued with problems, in deep offence to Noongar people, that has done little to alleviate the pain of Western Australians.

While the budget is designed to not hit households too much, with just a $247 increase in fees, it will hit them in other ways. For example, there are massive cuts planned for 54 WA Government agencies which will cut funding for preventative programs like responsible parenting and treatment for offenders, which will mean prisoners are released without rehabilitation, increasing the chance of reoffending.

The Liberal ‘plan’ to get the budget under control is to sell off our assets to the tune of $16 billion including Western Power, Horizon Power’s Pilbara distribution infrastructure and Fremantle Port. That’s if they can get these sales through Parliament. The National Party are refusing to commit to the sales and WA Labor are opposed.

It's irresponsible to sell key assets, particularly for such a dismal figure. It may create some short term gain, but it will only bring long term pain. It's equivalent to selling your house to pay off your credit card debt, a short-term solution that will put Western Australians behind in the long-term.

My Dad worked for Telstra, or Telecom as it was then, for 35 years. Infrastructure installed by people like my Dad meant that everyone had access to crucial communications services, which back then was a telephone. Since the Liberals made the mistake of selling Telstra without structurally separating it, Telstra has had no incentive to invest and communications services in Australia have become steadily worse and more expensive. Labor fixed this mistake with the National Broadband Network, which would have delivered 21st century optic fibre to Western Australia, but Malcolm Turnbull’s mismanagement of this critical infrastructure project means that most West Australians are still waiting for improved broadband, and worse, when they do get it, it will be a second rate copper version.

Rating agencies have warned the WA Government that even if they do manage to sell off these assets, it might not be enough to save Western Australia from another downgrade in the credit rating. How we went from a AAA credit rating to where we are now with the prospect of it reducing even further, in the middle of a mining boom, defies belief and only speaks of economic mismanagement of the highest order.

WA Liberal Treasurer Mike Nahan made an important point in his defence of the budget that the Federal Liberal politicians, including four from WA who hold positions in Turnbull’s cabinet, have done little to advocate for WA having a fairer and more equitable share of the GST. Ministers like Christian Porter, who is responsible for Social Services. He seems to have been more interested in dismantling Centrelink, which as a result of the 2016/17 Federal budget will lose another 810 staff next year and funding cuts of $80 million. This will only increase the number of Centrelink calls that go unanswered (22 million last year) and the frustration of voters. This is another area people, including pensioners, complain about when I am talking to people in Swan.

Western Australia deserves better. We are hard working and have propped up the Australian economy for so long. It breaks my heart that we are now in this position. The Liberal party have proven themselves to be irresponsible economic managers. Electing a Labor government at a state and federal level is the only chance Western Australia has to turn things around. It was a Labor government that helped Australia sail through the global financial crisis at a time when other nations in the world faltered, delivering economic stimulus and much needed infrastructure for schools and communities, and it is only a Labor government who will be able to get us out of this mess. A mess not created by a global crisis, but by the very government the people elected.


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