SUBJECTS: Liberals’ lacklustre advocacy for a fair share of GST for WA.

Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs Tim Hammond: As some might know, my wife and I have been blessed with the arrival of a baby boy, little Tully, who came about three weeks earlier than he should have. That meant a period of self-imposed paternity leave, which was due for the next three weeks, which meant obviously staying home and looking after the bub.

However, some things just need to be called out when they occur and most recently that is the Western Australian Liberals’ response to the release of the Draft Report for the Productivity Commission Review – Tweeting yesterday as WA Liberals:

“The WA Lib team took our fight for a better share of GST to Canberra and received a commitment for a review by the Productivity Commission.”

That just demonstrates how completely lacklustre the State and Federal Liberal Party have been in relation to advocating on the issue for seeking some sort of redress for our current GST disparity in Western Australia.

They have been completely missing in action and that is evidenced today by Scott Morrison crab-walking away at a rate of knots from leaning into any change to the GST distribution having seen just how much every other state and territory have come out and opposed any change at all.

So, not only has Scott Morrison completely walked away from any form of advocacy here, the Prime Minister is also completely missing in action.

There is absolutely no discussion about a floor for Western Australians in relation to the GST disparity. There is no certainty from Malcolm Turnbull and the Federal Liberal party in relation to fixing the GST disparity anytime soon and if the reaction of the other states and territories is anything to go by we’re not going to see anything form this Federal Liberal Government at all.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Mark McGowan and Ben Wyatt for the continued advocacy and pressure on Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison in relation to delivering a fair share for Western Australia.

That is completely contrasted by the fact that none of the Federal Liberal Ministers have achieved anything in relation to addressing the GST disparity at all. If anything, what the Draft Report indicates is that it was on Christian Porter’s watch as a former Treasurer of the State that contributed to the current dire predicament that Ben Wyatt and Mark McGowan now currently face; by erroneously predicating budget projections on a revised GST distribution that simply hasn’t occurred.

This has happened on the Liberals’ watch.

You contrast that with what the Federal Labor party and Bill Shorten has done. The only political party that has offered a meaningful solution to addressing our disparity in relation the GST, is Labor and Bill Shorten – who, only a month ago has come out and committed to policy that sees a Fair Share Fund to the equivalent of a 70 cent floor for Western Australia in relation to addressing the GST disparity if a Federal Labor party is elected in 2019.

All we are simply saying to Malcolm Turnbull is enough is enough. This is all talk and no action. He could match our policy right now and do something meaningful for Western Australia; instead all we see are weasel words and crab walking away from any meaningful commitment to change.

Journalist: Does Federal Labor support the interim findings of the Productivity Commission?

 Hammond: Part of the reason why it was important to make some comment in relation to the interim findings is that is all they are, interim findings. There is so much water to go under the bridge in relation to where this ends up at the moment; it risks not having any meaning whatsoever for any Western Australians.

Because even if any of these findings were to be implemented by the Productivity Commission Review, which one has to look at in the context of where the final recommendations are going to end up, what does this change for Western Australians tomorrow, what does it change for them next year? It changes absolutely nothing – the greatest disparity is right now – we know that. What Western Australians want is to have it fixed.

I don’t think Western Australians are particularly interested in the minutiae of how it gets fixed, they just want it fixed.  

 Journalist: You mentioned the fair share fund with the 70 cent floor. It is still an equivalent floor isn’t it? It doesn’t fix the underlying unfairness of the GST system; it’s just propping up an unfair system.

Hammond: I don’t think it is propping up an unfair system, what I would suggest it does is it puts money in the pockets of Western Australia.

This argument is fundamentally about us missing out on our fair share. What the Fair Share Fund does is put money into Western Australia that isn’t there now, that has a relativity in relation to a 70 cent floor, and that is why it is $1.6 billion. That is not a figure that’s made up because it sounds good or feels good, it is designed to inject some form of reasonableness back into the current disparity.

 Journalist: Where does it come from? That money is not budgeted anywhere.

 Hammond: It comes from budget repair. And this is the fundamental choice that Western Australians actually have going into a Federal election.

Which government do you want to choose?

Do you want to choose a government that has decided to give the top end of town, the big four banks, a tax cut at the cost of around $8 billion over the course of ten years, which is going to come from somewhere.

Or do you choose a government which decides to undertake some meaningful budget repair, not proceed down that path of backing the big end of town, which allows us to do things like fund a Fair Share Fund for WA, here and now.

 Journalist: I think Western Australians also want to see a change to the inherent unfairness which they see as a vast majority of their GST raised here in WA going elsewhere. The Fair Share Fund wouldn’t do anything to address that – it would still see the lion’s share of their GST going elsewhere.

 Hammond: I’m not sure I agree with that because what I think Western Australians fundamentally want is to make sure they are, in terms of where their GST equivalent is, is roughly a reasonable amount.

This isn’t some form of GST Hunger Games; this doesn’t have to be an outcome where there is a victor as opposed to all other States and Territories losing out.

There is a way through which sees Western Australia through to an amount that is fair and reasonable.

 Journalist: It would see us through the next few years, the next cycle, but it doesn’t stop this from happening again. And maybe there won’t be another Bill Shorten or a Tim Hammond or a Federal Labor to swoop in and be the hero of the day again, as Gareth Parker quite rightly termed you the other week.

Hammond: What we are dealing with right now is an unprecedented blip on the radar of horizontal fiscal equalisation. The Draft Report has to be seen in the context that the overarching comments are that the principles behind HFE are actually sound.

So what we are dealing with here is a perfect storm where Western Australia is currently producing record levels of iron ore royalties but we are dealing with almost a once-in-a-lifetime budget black hole left by a State Liberal Government, combined with the fact that the projections are that we will eventuallyeven under the current model, get up to a relative distribution which isn’t going to see us anywhere near where we are now.

What we actually need is something to get us through the next five years or so and the elegance of the Fair Share for WA fund achieves that.

Again, what we can’t ignore is the realpolitik of how this actually how this gets changed and I don’t see, at this stage, there being a bull’s roar of Malcolm Turnbull having the acumen or the leadership to get anything changed in the current term.

What we are going to see in term of relief for Western Australians is a Bill Shorten Federal Labor Government.

 Journalist: But terming it a blip on the radar, that it is a perfect storm, you’re essentially saying you don’t want the system changed in a way where if similar circumstances were to arise again once again that there would be any change.

Hammond: I’m not suggesting that at all, what I am suggesting is that firstly the Draft Report needs to be looked at in that context, it’s simply a draft and we need to see where the Productivity Commission ends up. Secondly; what we actually need is relief right now, that’s what we need. No amount of backing in recommendations in relation to the Productivity Commission Report when it is finally due is going to change that situation for Western Australians under this current regime, what they need is a change of government.

Journalist: And Malcolm Turnbull’s floor promise to the Liberal party State Conference back in the day has gone?

 Hammond: Where is it? Who said it? I think there are two things with that. When I went back and looked at precisely what he said I didn’t see a promise of a floor, I saw him say ‘I think this looks like a good idea’ and everyone latched onto it like there was no tomorrow. Colin Barnett, in desperation at the time, clung onto it like no one else did.

The thing is it has evaporated; any promise of a floor has evaporated.

When is it coming in? What will it mean in terms of the budget bottom line? At what rate will it be set?

It’s disappeared into a puff of smoke.    

 -ENDS -