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Thursday, 20 August 2009
Page: 8616

Dr JENSEN (12:50 PM) —I rise to speak on behalf of my state. Western Australia has long driven this nation’s economic development. Blessed with some of the world’s richest resource deposits and backed up with an enormous agricultural sector, Western Australia has, for decades, been putting the shirts on all Australians’ backs—and giving them trousers, and shoes, and socks, and hats. The tremendous Western Australia-driven national boom of recent years was curtailed only by the global economic crisis, and already there are indications of a mining-led recovery in my state while most of Australia and most of the world remain in the doldrums. We are rich in Western Australia partly because we have been blessed by nature, but also because we have worked hard and worked smart to get where we are. A strong entrepreneurial streak and the willingness to take on some of the toughest environmental conditions in the world have played a large part in our success.

We have been generous with our wealth, accepting almost without question that with such progress comes responsibility, and that it is reasonable to expect Western Australia to help out less fortunate states. We have poured billions into the federation and into other states and territories of this nation, consistently contributing far more than is proportionate to our population. The advent of the GST saw the extent of the subsidy by Western Australia to the rest of the country clearly demonstrated. For every dollar in GST Western Australia contributes to the federal coffers, more than 40c goes to subsidise the rest of the country. We get back only a little over 50 per cent of the GST we pay, and, at the same time, this must be used to finance massive infrastructure projects spanning vast distances in harsh environmental conditions in order to maintain economic output and growth. The rest of Australia then double dips in Western Australia, siphoning off the high level of income tax drawn from our strong economy and its generous wages.

On a per capita basis, our gross state product is about a third higher than the national average. More than one-third of Australia’s exports come from Western Australia. The state produces more than 20 per cent of the world’s alumina, 15 per cent of iron ore and 75 per cent of Australia’s gold. Oil, gas, uranium and coal are all in abundance. The state produces half of Australia’s wheat and 50 per cent of live cattle exports. It also has significant wool and lamb sectors.

So when you collect your pension in Melbourne, or drive down a new highway in Sydney; when you see a new school in Hobart or go to school in Adelaide, remember that the men and women of Western Australia are paying your way. We are happy to continue to do so. The days when Western Australia would vote overwhelmingly to secede from the rest of Australia, as 68 per cent did in 1933, have long since passed. But what we will not tolerate today is being taken for a ride by slothful elements in what one of my state party colleagues in Perth last week called the ‘rust bucket’ states.

The New South Wales Treasurer was engaging in the most pathetic form of parochial politics when he recently branded WA and Queensland ‘the axis of evil’ because the Commonwealth Grants Commission had decided to return a little more of the GST contributions made by these two states—the two which have done the most to drive economic development which has given all Australians the quality of life we enjoy today. That decision came just a year after the commission actually cut the amount returned to WA. But the changes in both directions have made no difference to the simple fact that WA receives substantially less per capita than it contributes. We get little more than a taste of the vast sums we hand over every year in GST so that the rest of Australia can share in our good fortune. Of course, we are all part of the great nation which is Australia and we must all work together for the common good, but balance is required. A more equitable arrangement is essential. WA deserves far more than it receives in dollars, gratitude and respect.