By Julian Bajkowski
Transport infrastructure and emergency services may have emerged as the primary winners in the Western Australian Budget, however Liberal Premier Colin Barnett will axe at least 1000 jobs from the public sector to try keep the state’s finances on an even keel.
Mr Barnet on Thursday forecast a $386 million for this financial year but the West’s balance sheet is predicted to edge into deficit the year after placing string pressure on government expenditure in areas like the public service which is again on the hunt for efficiency gains.
A heavy theme of the WA Budget this year is an unabashed push to spend big on transport infrastructure to accommodate sharp population growth in the West that has been causing growing pains in Perth.
The WA government has pledged a whopping $5.7 billion for transport projects with rail emerging as a core area of focus after scoring $3.9 billion of that amount.
The rail industry, which has had a tough slog persuading Eastern states to spend-up on tracks and rains over trucks and roads, is predictably ecstatic.
“The Western Australian government has today demonstrated a strategic and long term approach to the planning and development of its increasingly congested capital city, by implementing these urban rail projects that are guaranteed to improve the public transport system and transform the city for the better,” Australasian Railway Association (ARA) chief executive Bryan Nye said..
“The near $4 billion investment for the 22km MAX Light Rail and the Airport Rail Link will open up Perth’s congested roads and provide people with a greater opportunity to get to where they need to be in a more sustainable, cost effective, reliable and safer way.”
Mr Nye said that the rail industry had long been calling for greater investment in passenger rail within the states.
Significantly, WA is the second conservative state government to plump real money for inner urban metropolitan rail, a transport mode that was once derided by Labor governments in New South as expensive novelty infrastructure that did little for people in the suburbs.
Police have also benefited with another extra 550 cops to now be recruited for the price-tag of $282 million that equates to an average price tag of around half a million dollars a cop.
However the West’s property investors, who has seen meteoric gains in value, will help pay part of the fare by copping a 12.5 per cent hike in Land Tax, while water and electricity charges have also been ratcheted-up.
Workers on controversial 457 visas are also being hit with a $4000 charge for public school fees.
Domestic investors in solar energy have also been burned with the WA government the so-called feed in tariff – or money that paid to houses that supply energy via their solar panels – being retrospectively dropped from 40c per KW to 20c per KW.
That move has angered the solar lobby.
“This is a gross breach of faith with WA families,”,the chief Executive of the Australian Solar Council, John Grimes, said.
“Families signed a contract with the State Government in good faith, in which the Government guaranteed a rate of return, and now that contract has been ripped up by the Government.”
“Some 75,000 households signed a solar contract with the State Government. They invested their own hard-earned money and expected a return on their investment, which has now been blown away,” Mr Grimes said.
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