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WA Opposition Leader misses mark on policy re-think

Western Australian Opposition Leader Liza Harvey’s announced changes to WA Liberal Party policy are out of step with the business community and put the State’s budget repair at risk.

Opposing the State Government’s wages policy, denying the State billions of dollars in infrastructure spending that would be unlocked from the proceeds of partially selling Western Power, and supporting the most restrictive retail trading hours in the country are not policies that will help the WA economy recover.

The economic recovery of the State and repair of WA’s finances cannot be taken for granted.

Breaking the State Government’s wages policy is the single greatest risk to budget repair and would put both the State’s credit rating and budget surplus on shaky ground. Public sector wages are the largest component of general government expenditure, meaning even small changes to the policy would have a big impact.

A partial sale of Western Power would unlock billions of dollars of capital that could underwrite a major infrastructure package at the next election and increase efficiency in running the State’s poles and wires, helping to kick-start economic recovery and diversification in WA.

Ms Harvey has opted to support the most restrictive retail trading hours in the country, forcing brick and mortar retailers to shut their doors while online competitors can trade 24/7. Modernising WA’s restrictive retail trading hours would make WA more attractive to tourists, create new jobs for West Australians and makes life easier for working families by providing more flexible shopping times.

WA retail is vital to our economy, with over 135,000 employees who contribute over $8 billion to the State’s economic growth. Unemployment in the retail trade industry is the third highest out of any industry across WA, with 6,100 West Australians looking for work in the industry.

The WA Government’s own independent Economic Regulation Authority, the Australian Productivity Commission and the Harper Review have all reviewed WA’s restrictive retail trading hours and recommended that the regulations be removed. In every independent study, it was strongly argued that retail trading regulation is holding WA’s economy back.

CCI welcomes Ms Harvey’s comments that she supports a reduction to payroll tax, but we urge her and the State Government to outline their policy positions on this jobs tax as a priority.

It’s not surprising that at the same time WA has the highest tax on jobs in the country we also have the second highest unemployment rate and the highest youth unemployment rate in the country.

Payroll tax is holding WA jobs back. Cutting payroll tax creates jobs, supports wages growth, will add hours for existing workers, supports small business, and because it benefits every WA industry evenly, will help diversify the economy.

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