22/06/2017 - 14:30

Households, miners to pay an extra $334m

22/06/2017 - 14:30

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The state government has lifted an array of fees and charges as it seeks to address its budget woes, with iron ore exporters in the Pilbara and electricity consumers facing the largest increases.

Ben Wyatt says the state government's new budget repair program is fair. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The state government has lifted an array of fees and charges as it seeks to address its budget woes, with iron ore exporters in the Pilbara and electricity consumers facing the largest increases.

The new charges on households will raise $238 million over four years and come in the form of higher electricity and water bills, along with bigger public transport costs, and increases to vehicle licensing fees and recreational fishing fees, starting July 1.

The basket of fees and charges represent a combined 7.7 per cent increase, a rise that the government said was unavoidable.

The changes include:

  • an increase of $169 to the fixed charge component of electricity bills, or 10.9 per cent for the 'representative household';
  • a 6 per cent increase in water, sewerage and drainage charges;
  • changes to public transport fares, which include a 1.8 per cent increase in public transport standard fares (rounded to the nearest 10 cents), student fares increasing to 70 cents (from 60 cents), and a 5 per cent reduction in the discount offered to SmartRider fares (to 20 per cent for Autoload and 10 per cent for other re-load);
  • vehicle licence charges will increase by 5.5 per cent, an increase of 2.8 per cent for motor injury insurance, and a 1.7 per cent increase for a driver's licence; and
  • a 3.35 per cent increase in the emergency services levy.

The government has also announced reforms to the concessions framework, with the Energy Assistance Payment to be increased to $300. This concession is paid annually to about 200,000 households who hold Commonwealth concession cards.

It will also overhaul the Hardship Utility Grant Scheme, adding an additional $16.3 million to the program over two years.

For seniors' households with Commonwealth concessions cards, the government will continue to provide the 50 per cent rebates for water service charges capped at $600 and local government rates capped at $750, and a 50 per cent rebate on the underground electricity connection charge.

However, for households with only a WA Seniors Card, those rebates will be capped at $100 each.

All other rebates are unchanged.

Recreational fishing licence fees were also targeted in the tax reviews, increasing for the first time in seven years.

Licences are required in recreational fishing for rock lobster, abalone and marron, when fishing with a net or from a boat, and also for fresh water angling in the South West. The new fee for each of those licences will be $45, while a licence for fishing from a boat will cost $35.

The measure is expected to bring in an extra $1 million a year.

“The changes to the household fees and charges and concessions are expected to improve the state's net debt position by about $238 million over the forward estimates period,” the government said in a statement.

“In addition to these changes, the government will review the effectiveness of existing concession programs that will inform 2018-19 budget considerations.”

Treasurer Ben Wyatt said the new taxes were fair.

"We have had to make tough decisions to help get the budget under control and unfortunately the burden of those decisions need to be shared across the community,” he said.

"This government takes the state's financial challenge very seriously, with the state heading to more than $42 billion in debt by 2020, and an operating deficit of about $3 billion in 2016-17.

"With our GST share at ridiculously low levels and Treasury forecasting a further $2.6 billion revenue write down since we were elected, fixing the mess we inherited will take time."

Meanwhile, the state government has also introduced changes to port fees for miners to generate an extra $95 million in revenue over forward estimates.

The Pilbara Ports Authority’s fees will increase by 17 per cent, levied on a vessel’s gross register tonnage at the ports of Dampier and Port Hedland.

Fees at Fremantle Ports will increase by 2.5 per cent, while those at the ports of Albany, Bunbury and Esperance will rise by 0.5 per cent each.

The Port of Broome’s fees will increase by 2 per cent, while the Mid West Ports Authority will oversee a 3 per cent increase at Geraldton.

The increase equates to up to 4 cents per tonne, and will be implemented before October.

An existing port charges discount for junior miners using the Utah Point Bulk Handling Facility will remain unchanged.

"Everyone will share the burden to help pay for the Liberals and Nationals' out of control spending,” Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said.

“Fixing the mess we have inherited will take time, but we will do everything possible to minimise the impact.

"That's why we have extended the discount for junior miners, giving them confidence going forward."

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