WA Premier Colin Barnett says the federal government should provide more funding to the state for major infrastructure projects to stem the economic slowdown that has hit since the mining boom ended.
Mr Barnett and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to help at a meeting last Friday amid fears about a two-speed economy in which Victoria and NSW are thriving thanks to a property boom.
The WA premier is pointing to the state getting by far the nation’s lowest share of GST revenue – down to nearly 30 cents in the dollar – in recent years as a reason for it to get a boost in billions of dollars of infrastructure spending.
“The economy is fairly flat and we are very keen to maintain a strong government public works program,” he told ABC radio on Monday.
“We get such a bad deal, such a raw deal on the GST that I think we’ve got a strong case for any more infrastructure spending.”
WA’s population had shot up by 500,000 or 30 per cent during the eight-year period of the Liberal National government.
There was urgent need for rail transport upgrades, investment in new water supplies, more dual carriageways on major highways leading out of Perth, expanding service facilities in ports to cater for smaller ships and to service oil and gas rigs, he said.
“Prime Minister Turnbull indicated he wants to see a great improvement to Australia’s infrastructure. It is a good time to do it as you can find private investors, interest costs are low,” Mr Barnett said.
“We are simply being held back because of our GST share, otherwise you would find we wouldn’t need any commonwealth help.”
The commonwealth is already contributing more than half of the funds to the Perth Freight Link and about one quarter of the Forrestfield Airport Link rail project, both worth almost $2 billion.
WA Labor leader Mark McGowan said the Barnett government was to blame for what he called a domestic recession, in which the state had the highest unemployment in the nation and 11 out of the past 12 quarters had recorded falls in the size of the economy.