The Shadow Treasurer Dr Steve Thomas says that while many commentators think Mark McGowan’s enduring legacy will be the State’s management of COVID, he believes the way the Premier will be remembered in history will be based on what he did with the biggest fiscal boom this or any Australian state has ever seen.
“Western Australia’s COVID medical response has been world leading, for which the Premier has rightly been credited” Dr Thomas said.
“Although he could have done better for business, because the constantly changing rules, lack of clarity and consistency, and poorly rolled out compensation programs have damaged business viability, the health response in our state has been better than anywhere else.”
Dr Thomas said that the COVID numbers over the last week have again reinforced his point that the WA has reached the peak of cases, and that it is time for the State Government to release a plan for transitioning out of COVID restrictions.
“Charting the new infections, hospitalisation and ICU rates and comparing that to the previous modelling now clearly demonstrates that the peak of this wave has been reached, and the Premier now has no excuse not to tell us how and when he will ease the burden on the community.”
“I accept that there remains some uncertainty, and that there may be future waves of new variants or even new viruses, but we can’t stay under restrictions forever waiting in case something changes in the future. If the situation changes, the state will respond as we have now well proven we can.”
Dr Thomas also said that the current fiscal climate meant that no jurisdiction in the world was better resourced and funded to cope with future health threats.
“Mark McGowan has the good fortune of receiving the greatest revenue ever seen in WA, which has resulted in the biggest budget surpluses of any state in Australia’s history. Thanks to massive iron ore royalties, huge increases in Commonwealth grants including the GST fix, and sky-high state taxes and charges, this Government is rolling in cash. It has no excuse for being unready for the future.”
“Instead of filling up the Premier’s money bin with that cash, it should be used to the reform the economy for future years when the inevitable correction in iron ore occurs” Dr Thomas said.
“Diversifying the economy so we end the boom-and-bust cycles of the past can only occur when times are good and the state is wealthy, and it will never be richer than it is right now.”
“The Government is looking at $12 billion in surpluses over the last two years alone, and probably $20 billion over five years. In my view the Premier’s lasting political legacy will depend on how he spends that mountain of cash, and whether he uses it for economic and administrative reform that sets the state up for the future, or he misses the greatest opportunity in a century to do so.”