Treasurer Stephen Mullighan yesterday handed down the state’s first Labor budget since 2017, with record health spending and a predicted four years of surpluses – offset by “budget repair” measures, including public sector savings targets.
With inflation set to rise, the budget’s predicting the current year’s employment growth rate of 3.25 per cent to fall to just 1 per cent in each of the next four years.
Liberal leader David Speirs told media while “it’s not for me to criticise the mandate they’ve got to deliver” the various spending commitments outlined in the budget – which mirrored Labor’s pre-election pledges – “the bigger question is what’s not in this budget”.
He said the sluggish growth equated to “about 20,000 [fewer] jobs being created in this state… and that’s obviously a significant concern”.
The Liberal leader appeared to urge more targeted intervention in the economy, saying: “There is a role for government to respond to that and try to get projects off the ground that will actually expand job creation.”
He said what was needed was an “infrastructure spend that will confidently deliver jobs in this state – and the Treasury projections are not showing that”.
Speirs also warned around $700 million over four years in savings were “concerningly” ambiguous, saying “there are hundreds of millions of dollars not detailed”.
“Of course, the easiest way to reduce spending in the public service is to axe public service jobs,” he said.
“There’s no doubt there will be many, many public sector jobs going.”
However, Speirs offered “bipartisanship” around Mullighan’s war cry over the Commonwealth’s GST allocation, which he said favoured Western Australia.
“There’s no doubt the GST distribution is very generous to Western Australia and if there’s anything that can be done to see a fairer distribution of GST, the Liberal party would support that,” Speirs said.
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