Wednesday, 4 May 2016
Questions without Notice
Goods and Services Tax
My question is to the Minister for Finance, Senator Cormann. Two years ago I first stood in this place to ask your government the first of my four questions about Western Australians being robbed of our fair share of GST revenue. In that time, your government could have voted for laws I have brought before this place to fix the broken GST distribution system once and for all and deliver to Western Australia an extra $3.5 billion this year alone, instead of killing my legislation by running to an early election. Minister, does your government acknowledge that the $490 million of GST compensation measures for Western Australia in this year's budget falls well short of what is owed to Western Australians, who are now the highest taxed individuals per capita in this country?
I thank Senator Wang for that question. As Senator Wang knows, this government has provided, two years in a row now, additional support for Western Australian infrastructure in recognition of the fact that the WA share of the GST had dropped unacceptably low to a level of about 30 per cent. What we have done, last year and again this year, by making an additional investment in key economic infrastructure in Western Australia, is stop the drop in the share of the GST for Western Australia, essentially maintaining it at the 2014-15 levels.
The GST is a state tax and, as the Prime Minister has said on a number of occasions, for the GST sharing arrangements to be changed, there would obviously have to be a level of consensus across state and territory leaders. These conversations are ongoing and I am hopeful that, in due course, the Prime Minister and the state and territory government leaders will be able to come up with the best possible GST arrangement for the future.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, as one of four cabinet ministers from Western Australia and being personally in control of the financial portfolio, can you explain why our state's so-called voices at the table have failed their fellow Western Australians by not fixing the GST distribution system, even though successive governments and this year's budget have repeatedly confirmed that it is unfair?
Senator Sterle interjecting—
I hear that Senator Sterle agrees with Senator Wang, from his interjection. Let me just say that I do not agree with your characterisation. Obviously those of us who are ministers in a national government have to consider the national interest. Yes, we all come here with perspectives, representing our states to the best of our ability. That is what all of the Western Australian Liberal senators have done and what all the Western Australian House of Representatives have done. We have delivered real outcomes for the great state of Western Australia in the form of increased investment in infrastructure funding for the great state of Western Australia. But, when it comes to the GST sharing arrangements, obviously in a Federation a level of horizontal fiscal equalisation is appropriate and is important, and it would not be appropriate for a national government to side with a stronger state at a particular point to harm comparatively weaker states. We have, I believe, achieved the right balance in the national interest. (Time expired)
Minister, given your government has strategically timed the $50 million submarines announcement to save a couple of marginal seats in South Australia, how many marginal seats will there have to be in WA for your government to take the GST issue seriously?
I completely reject the premise of that question. The government's decision in relation to the procurement of the next generation of submarines was a very important strategic decision in our national interest. It is a decision that, obviously, first and foremost, is in our national security interest, in the interests of the strong defence of our nation.
It does deliver significant economic benefits right across Australia, in particular, in South Australia. But it also delivers, as part of our overall naval shipbuilding plan—our overall plan for a continuous shipbuilding program in Australia—significant economic benefits for the defence industry and for high-end manufacturing and technology providers right across Australia, including in Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. That is as it should be, and the government are very proud of the decisions that we have made in that regard. (Time expired)