The Western Australian budget has been blasted as ‘lazy’ by the property industry after the Barnett government unveiled a further hike in land taxes and a jump in the Perth Parking Levy amongst measures to address the state’s fiscal balance.
In a statement, Property Council of Australia Executive Director Joe Lenzo accused the Barnett government of ‘taking the lazy way to fix the Budget problem’, adding that the budget cut infrastructure spending for the second year in a row and contained no vision to keep the state’s economy growing after the end of the mining boom.
“This is a very disappointing Budget that lacks any vision for reform to make the tax system fairer and more sustainable” Lenzo said.
“It is a bookkeeper’s budget for the short term that masks the structural faults in the state tax system and the government’s inability to reign in public expenditure.”
Lenzo is not alone in his criticism.
Geoff Cooper, Director of Housing for the Master Builders Association of Western Australia, said the budget represented ‘the tax man putting his hands in the pockets of WA home buyers’ and would further exasperate the state’s housing affordability crisis.
As it desperately tries to address state debt (estimated at $24.9 billion in 2014/15), the government has slugged property owners with ten percent rises in land taxes and tightened rural property exemptions, jacked up the Perth parking levy by $365 over two years, reduced the threshold upon which stamp duty is levied on first home purchases from $500,000 to $430,000 and increased landfill levy rates.
Households have also been slugged an extra $324.18 on average for electricity, water, public transport and car registration whilst wage rises of public servants will be capped at 2.75 percent and 2.5 percent over the next two years.
Meanwhile, the government will sell off ‘surplus’ hospital sites including the Princess Margaret Hospital, Swan District Hospital and Shenton Park (part of Royal Perth Hospital); Utah Point facility at Port Hedland Port; Kwinana Bulk Terminal; TAB and Perth Market Authority.
All this, the government says, will produce a budget surplus of $175 million over the next financial year.
But Cooper said a failure over many years to address affordability concerns was impacting demand for public housing and social support services and therefore having a flow-on effect upon state finances.
Lenzo, meanwhile, says the Property Council intended to launch a public campaign to raise awareness about how property tax rises impact the broader economy and would lead an industry plan to reform taxes - a job he says the WA government ‘continually refuses to do’.