Business calls for long-term budget fix

Business has welcomed an improved short-term budget position but cautioned both parties that the future State Government must continue to rein in spending and sell key assets for long-term budget repair, says Western Australia’s peak business advocate.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia (CCI) Chief Economist Rick Newnham said today’s pre-election Financial Projections Statement showed that restraint in budget expenditure growth should underpin all future government planning and asset sales must be a part of the long-term budget and debt repair agenda.

“No matter which party forms government next month, asset sales will need to be a key part of fixing the budget for the future,” Mr Newnham said.

“While the short-term budget position has improved by $360 million, today’s announcement forecasts that WA will now not see a return to surplus in 2019-20 – the WA business community needs a strong plan back to surplus and the most sensible way to do this is through reducing spending and advancing a meaningful asset sales agenda.

“CCI has long called for the sale of any asset that does not need to be owned by the state – the partial sale of Western Power will reduce state debt by around $8 billion, create greater efficiencies for consumers, boost investment, take us one step closer to regaining the critical AAA credit rating and most importantly, will create thousands of new jobs for WA workers through recycling sale proceeds into new infrastructure via the $3 billion Next Generation fund.

“More investment in the state means more new projects coming on line, which again means more jobs for workers and more taxes and royalties into the State Government’s coffers – WA business urges Mark McGowan to reconsider his opposition to the sale of Western Power and consider other assets that could be privatised to fund job-creating infrastructure projects, should WA Labor form the next State Government.

“It is important to note the short-term budget improvement is largely attributable to an uptick in the iron ore price – CCI has welcomed continued efforts by the current State Government to rein in spending and has welcomed a commitment from the Opposition to restrain growth in public sector wages, and would urge both parties to examine more ways in which Government can proactively bring the budget under control.

“Consolidation of departments should occur where there is clear existing overlap and curbing growth in spending in the Health Department – where spending growth has averaged an unsustainable nine per cent per year – must be prioritised.

“The Western Australian business community wants both parties to outline how they will support growth in the economy, create jobs and pay for their infrastructure commitments. Business calls on the leaders of both major parties to pledge that they will not increase taxes on business – helping business work will help put Western Australians back to work, and taxing WA business for a quick budget fix is not the solution to WA’s unemployment woes.

“CCI also calls on both parties to commit to permanent payroll tax reform, to create nearly 900 jobs for workers by lifting the payroll tax threshold and helping WA small businesses succeed – payroll tax reform is a smart, targeted way to empower business to do what business does best, which is employ West Australians and stimulate the economy." 

Media contact: Kate Hodges – 0448 928 227

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