05/02/2014 - 16:00

Buswell says govt showed lack of will

05/02/2014 - 16:00

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Treasurer Troy Buswell has admitted the Barnett government showed a lack of "political ticker" by reversing a number of unpopular savings measures just days after the release of last year's state budget.

Buswell says govt showed lack of will

Treasurer Troy Buswell has admitted the Barnett government showed a lack of "political ticker" by reversing a number of unpopular savings measures just days after the release of last year's state budget.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor's downgraded the state's prized AAA credit rating to AA+ in September last year, criticising the government for demonstrating "limited political will" by failing to follow through with planned spending cuts.

Speaking at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia function in Perth today, Mr Buswell said the agency's comments were "probably right" but signalled new resolve to make the tough choices necessary to ensure the budget remains in surplus.

"Last year one of the ratings agencies said that one of the problems over there in WA is (the government) hasn't got the political ticker to do hard things," Mr Buswell said.

"They were probably right. But I'll give you a tip: I don't think they'll be saying that for much longer. We understand that we need to change and we intend to."

The treasurer's comments are at odds with the reaction from Premier Colin Barnett, who argued that it was not up to ratings agencies to engage in political commentary.

The government reversed a decision to slash by half the amount paid to households that feed solar power into Western Australia's energy grid less than a week after it was announced after it was poorly received by voters.

It also delayed plans to charge annual $4,000 school fees for the families of 457 visa holders.

However Mr Buswell said the government intended to make further cuts to its $27 billion forecast infrastructure spend, having already trimmed more than $2 billion from its planned capital works. 

The government announced in its mid-year economic review in December that it would defer its much-hyped MAX light rail project until 2019, while also reducing planned spending by the Housing Authority, Main Roads and the Water Corporation. 

It also identified the Kaleeya Hospital in East Fremantle, the Utah Point berth at Port Hedland, and the Kwinana bulk terminal as sales options in the government's bid to generate revenue through selling assets.

Mr Buswell added to that list today, announcing the government would look to find a new private bidder to boost capacity at Dampier Port through the development of new infrastructure and upgrades to existing facilities.

"The economy is different now ... (it) is going through a period of consolidation," he said.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the government business model needs to be fixed up, because it's not sustainable.

"I think one of the things we need to be focused on as we build this year's budget is what we can do to secure the economic future of the state."

Mr Buswell said the government was likely to spend more this year on an oversubscribed public sector redundancy program and signalled the government was determined to push through legislation to allow for involuntary redundancies to take place.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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