The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Wayne Swan

Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

16 May 2012

Doorstop Interview

Perth

SUBJECTS: Investing in Western Australia's infrastructure needs, spreading the benefits of the boom, GST, WA Budget, Craig Thompson

TREASURER:

Well it's great to be here with Senator Glen Sterle who is a great champion for the state of Western Australia, in Canberra. It's also good to be here with all of the representatives of the City East Alliance. Looking at this construction behind us here, what a fantastic investment this is for the city of Perth and for the state of Western Australia. A very substantial Federal investment here in the road network, around a quarter of a billion dollars of Federal money going into this road and if it wasn't for the decision of the Federal Government to contribute that amount of money this construction would not be happening. So it's of major importance to the city of Perth and to the economy of Western Australia.

What this is about is getting rid of those bottlenecks which not only affect the capacity to do business but affect the quality of life of local residents. And of course it's not just the project here, it's the Federal Government's commitment of $668 million to the Gateway project down the road which is going to be a fantastic improvement for the city of Perth. Once again, huge benefits here in terms of business, but huge benefits in terms of the quality of life of people living around this area because when you get heavy industrial traffic, mixed in with cars going about their normal domestic routine, dropping kids off to school and so on, these projects really mean a lot.

And I think what we can say here is that through this Federal Government investment we are substantially putting a lot of money in to the state of Western Australia to make sure that the infrastructure that is required in this growing state is there because this state is one of the great engine rooms of the national economy and therefore it's appropriate that the Federal Government is making the investments here as we are.

And on top of that in our recent Federal Budget we put in place a package to spread the benefits of the mining boom to every corner of our country and to every corner of this state in particular because you know a lot of people when they're sitting at home in a city like this don't feel part of the mining boom. They don't necessarily feel that they're receiving the direct benefits. Well, they do receive the direct benefits through our investment in the Gateway project which is funded by revenue from the Mining Resource Rent Tax. That's one way we can spread the benefit around to infrastructure in the city but we're also going to spread the benefit around to families, to families with increases in family payments but most particularly for an increase in the Schoolkids Bonus.

A lot of parents find it very expensive to educate their kids. Well, that Schoolkids Bonus is going to flow through in June this year to a lot of families who are out there wanting to buy the school uniforms, the jumpers, the calculators, and so on. So we're spreading the benefits of the boom right around the economy because it's really important that everyone in this state, everyone in this city feels the benefits and has a stake in the benefits of a mining boom.

So that's why I'm here today with Senator Glen Sterle to talk about the benefits of this package and also to talk about the benefits of the business tax changes we've put in place in the budget. 274,000 small businesses in Western Australia will benefit from the instant asset write off where they can write off an asset they buy for up to $6500, multiple times. That's a huge cash flow benefit for a lot of businesses in this city, and of course we've introduced a new measure for small business called Loss Carry Back which is going to encourage future investment by small business. The Schoolkids Bonus will go to something like 211,000 school kids in WA and of course there's increases in family payments which will flow from 1 July next year but also increases in family payments now as we speak, hitting the letter boxes and the bank accounts of many families right across the city.

So the Federal Government is pretty keen to make sure that we keep investing in Western Australia and keep spreading the benefits of the boom to people wherever they live, particularly across this great state and this great city. Over to you.

JOURNALIST:

Colin Barnett says that you took $1 billion out of this state in the last Budget. How is that then spreading of the benefits of the boom to WA?

TREASURER:

I'm sorry but Mr Barnett is just talking rubbish and he's just playing politics. We stand ready to work with the government of Western Australia. We are standing here in this project with an investment of $268 million. That would not have happened if it wasn't for the Federal Government. A decision that we took in 2010 and look at it here now, it's happening. The commitment that we are making to the Gateway project, $668 million funded from the Minerals Resource Rent Tax that Mr Barnett opposes and that wouldn't be happening if we took Mr Barnett's advice.

So when it comes in investing in infrastructure we're here in Western Australia doing the right thing by West Australians but we're also making sure that we spread the benefits of the boom to all of those families across this state and this city that really feel the cost of living pressures. Now, I know Mr Barnett opposes that but we are out there providing families with essential cost of living assistance which Mr Barnett opposes.

JOURNALIST:

Christian Porter says that you're giving in one hand and taking in the other, that the loss of the revenue from GST $656 million is causing him a small surplus and…

TREASURER:

Can we just get the facts right? What we need here is to really be clear about the facts. The GST monies are distributed under this Government the same way in which they were distributed under the previous Liberal Government, led by Mr Howard. Mr Porter and Mr Barnett had nothing to say about that then. The Federal Labor Government does not take the decisions on GST distribution. The GST revenue comes through and is divided up and the judgements are made by an independent commission, not the Federal Government no matter how much Mr Barnett and Mr Porter want to try and imply that the Federal Government has got something to do with the reduction in GST revenues, it has not.

What we did do, in a reasonable way, was agree to a request from Mr Barnett that we have a review by an independent committee of that formula and that's what we're doing right now. But it is entirely misleading for Mr Barnett to somehow claim that the Federal Government is responsible for the fact that GST revenues are moving around. The Federal Government's revenues are down, the GST revenues are down for the same reasons. It's not the Federal Government that's responsible for that.

I tell you what we do, what we do is we come to the party here in projects like this, putting cash into Western Australia, helping Western Australian families, and we do that because it's good for Western Australia. If Mr Barnett wants to play politics, well I'll leave that to him. What the Federal Labor Government will get on and do is the right thing by Western Australia.

JOURNALIST:

Should they stop complaining?

TREASURER:

Well, if they want to play politics that's up to them. We're in the cart for a constructive discussion and relationship about working for the good of Western Australia and this project behind me right here is the concrete evidence that that's what we've been doing. And the money that we've got on the table for the Gateway project, which is going to be fantastic for this city, is further proof of how we are investing in this state. Even if the source of revenue is opposed by Mr Barnett, we're going to be investing dollars here into important projects, not just for the good of the city, but for the whole state because if you get the logistics around the airport right then you get it right elsewhere in the state as well.

This is one of the biggest commitments that the Commonwealth can make and we are making it here in Perth because we understand how important it is.

JOURNALIST:

The state government hands down its budget tomorrow. Do Mr Porter and Mr Barnett have responsibility to do something to share the benefits of the boom through that budget as well?

TREASURER:

Well, of course they do. Their revenues have been increasing dramatically. The revenues of Mr Barnett and Mr Porter have been increasing dramatically. They will of course deny that, but in fact they have been increasing dramatically. They want to focus on the GST. The fact is that the GST is distributed under this Government as it was distributed under the Howard Government. We have been very reasonable talking to the Western Australian government about an independent review of that but if they want to seek to play politics with that, they can. But I tell you what, I reckon West Australia families are getting pretty sick of that sort of politicking from Mr Barnett and Mr Porter and they want to see some action but I'll leave it up to them. It's their budget. I've done mine, I'll wait for theirs.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Swan this project and also Gateway, the funding commitments have been known for some time and your budget last week has been accused of being very city-centric with with infrastructure investment. Are you doing enough to invest in Western Australia? It's a very big state and…

TREASURER:

Of course we are. We've got investments elsewhere. This isn't the only investment. We've got a big investment up in Port Hedland as well. I can pull the figure out for you in a moment but we are investing across the board and Western Australia is getting a fair bit of Federal money when it comes to infrastructure. Let's just see where the state government money is in their budget tomorrow.

JOURNALIST:

Can I ask you a question about the budget handouts to middle class and low socioeconomic groups? Does that negate the need to increase the minimum wage?

TREASURER:

This Government in no way apologises for spreading the benefits of the mining boom to low and middle income earning Australians who work hard and make our economy strong and it's got nothing to do with anything else other than making sure they get a share in the benefits and the bounty of this great country that we are experiencing in particular from the mining boom.

We'll see all these sorts of articles from time to time. The most important thing is that families are going to get benefits to help them with the cost of living, particularly the Schoolkids Bonus which is really important for the education of our children. And the Government is very proud of what we've done in this budget to assist low and middle income earners.

JOURNALIST:

This morning you said that WA (inaudible) get 55 cents in every dollar, it would be like 80 because of other funding. Is that really fair?

TREASURER:

Yes, well you can do these calculations for other states, but when you throw in what comes into the West Australian revenue not just from the GST but from our investment in infrastructure and other revenues we return the state of Western Australia, the return is up well over 80 cents in the dollar and it's about time Mr Barnett told the truth about that.

JOURNALIST:

Simon Crean has said that the ALP should have asked harder questions before endorsing Craig Thomson. What do you think?

TREASURER:

Well, there's always lessons to be learned from any event but we're not the judge or jury and I don't intend to play judge or jury in my comments I make about this. Thanks a lot.