Election campaign a lacklustre affair

27/08/2008 - 22:00

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Liberal Party leader Colin Barnett's commitment to increased education spending was one of the few standouts in the third week of the state election campaign, which has continued to be a lacklustre affair.

Liberal Party leader Colin Barnett's commitment to increased education spending was one of the few standouts in the third week of the state election campaign, which has continued to be a lacklustre affair.

The cautious approach of the main protagonists was highlighted by the conduct of the leaders' debate, which had little in the way of colour, personality or policy detail.

Mr Barnett has also committed to $250 million in tax cuts but his main focus has been education spending.

Mr Barnett noted that, under Labor governments since 2001, Western Australia has gone from the second lowest taxing state in Australia to the highest taxing state per capita.

Labor believes it is more appropriate to measure the state's tax competitiveness as a share of the economy, which shows WA as a relatively low-taxing state.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA had a lukewarm response to the proposed tax cuts, saying they were welcome but would not deliver the level of reform that the WA business community deserved.

CCI executive director economic policy John Nicolaou said the cuts would deliver "only modest tax relief, and only partially improve the State's tax competitiveness".

"While the Liberal Party has yet to decide what taxes will be cut and by how much, the WA business community will expect payroll tax to be the number one priority," Mr Nicolau said.

Mr Barnett's education commitments include increased spending on school buildings and higher pay for teachers.

He said a Liberal government would commit to a $490 million construction and refurbishment plan for the state's schools, including an additional $300 million to build a minimum of 14 new schools over six years through a combination of traditional methods and public-private partnerships.

Mr Barnett said he would also allocate an additional $120 million in his first budget to improve teacher salaries over the current three year agreement.

Another notable initiative from Mr Barnett was a commitment to construct a natural gas pipeline from Bunbury to Albany, via Bridgetown and Manjimup, at a cost of around $225 million.

The development will be conducted as a joint venture between a government-owned utility and a private sector proponent, with construction expected to begin in the first term of a Liberal government.

Mr Barnett said his government would provide a fully transparent subsidy to the government owned utility for the project until the customer base and demand requirements grew.

Mr Ripper has stated that the government already has fully-costed plans in place to upgrade energy infrastructure in the Great Southern.

He said Mr Barnett's proposal would also require a further expansion of the Dampier to Bunbury natural gas pipeline, which supplies gas to the state's south.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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