02/03/2017 - 09:34

Costings can be explosive

02/03/2017 - 09:34

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ANALYSIS: The row between Premier Colin Barnett and opposition leader Mark McGowan over the cost of their election promises is a clear sign the campaign is getting to the pointy end. But don’t rule out surprises.

An error with costings hurt Colin Barnett’s election chances in 2005.

ANALYSIS: The row between Premier Colin Barnett and opposition leader Mark McGowan over the cost of their election promises is a clear sign the campaign is getting to the pointy end. But don’t rule out surprises.

Mr Barnett has challenged the Labor leader to submit his party’s promises to the WA Treasury to have the cost independently assessed. Mr McGowan has questioned the independence issue, saying Labor has selected two reputable former senior public servants to do the job.

The only guide on costs available for ready reference is the ‘spend-o-meter’ published in The West Australian. At last count it had Labor’s ‘bill’ at $5 billion, well ahead of the Liberals on $2.8 billion and the Nationals’ $2.4 billion.

The obvious question to be asked is, given the parlous state of the finances, as confirmed by under-treasurer Michael Barnes, can Western Australia afford these promises? And can the parties be believed that they can deliver during the next four-year term, or will voters be forced to endure more duck-shoving when it’s obvious the money is just not there?

Mr Barnett knows full well the pitfalls when election costings go wrong.

At a news conference in the final week of the 2005 campaign when, as opposition leader, he was running neck and neck with then Labor premier Geoff Gallop, Mr Barnett was confronted with an error in Liberal costings, which had been prepared in-house.

There followed an embarrassing claim and counter claim as to the accuracy of the figures. It transpired that some items had been omitted, and the figures did not add up. A correction was made an hour or so later, but the damage to the credibility of the costings had been done.

It took the wind out of the Liberal sails in the closing days of the campaign, and Dr Gallop won the day.

No party will want a repetition of that debacle. But if it happens once, it can happen twice.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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