Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson MP says criticism of the Federal Government’s attitude towards reforming the GST carve-up is unfounded and the Prime Minister has not reneged on his commitment to Western Australia.
However, Mr Wilson said discussions about working towards a floor should begin immediately and maintained this year’s Coalition of Australian Governments meeting would be the ideal starting point.
The Prime Minister was criticised at the weekend for his comments in a letter to Senator Eric Abetz, where Mr Turnbull said consideration of a floor “would not arise for some years”.
Mr Wilson said the Prime Minister, during his address to the Liberal Party State Conference in August, made it clear that a floor would be pursued when WA’s share of the GST bounced back to above 75 cents in the dollar.
“Critics have been quick to say the Prime Minister is walking away from his commitment to WA, but this reform was never floated as something that would occur in the short term,” Mr Wilson said.
“WA’s return of GST revenue is going to return to 75 cents in the dollar by 2019-20 regardless of what action the Government takes, so the distribution formula will naturally correct the abysmally low return our State has suffered in recent years.
“The Prime Minister has already written to State and Territory leaders asking them to look towards a long-term GST solution – I am urging Malcolm Turnbull to start those discussions at the COAG meeting this year.
“Negotiations over a GST floor will take time and we should be starting those discussions now, in anticipation of introducing a minimum return for each State and Territory in the future.”
Mr Wilson said the WA Nationals’ call for WA MPs and Senators to blackmail the Prime Minister by blocking every item of Government legislation was reflective of the party’s declining relevance with voters.
“Prior to the last election I made it very clear that while O’Connor would always remain my top priority, I would be a working member of the Coalition Government for the good of the nation,” Mr Wilson said.
“The WA Nationals’ suggestion that I should block important legislation, at a time when former Treasury chief Ken Henry says Australia is at risk of losing its AAA credit rating, would be profoundly immature and detrimental to both O’Connor and the Australian people.
“The WA Nationals candidate John Hassell promised to cross the floor, while making the introduction of a GST floor the centrepiece of his campaign – notwithstanding a lack of any realistic strategy to achieve his goal.
“The Nationals had an extremely poor election result in O’Connor: their primary vote fell 5.53 per cent and 4978 voters deserted the party.
“I think voters understand that while WA’s share of the GST is a frustrating issue, finding a solution is complex and it’s not the only important issue facing our nation.
“O’Connor’s economy is growing faster than any other electorate in Australia – I don’t believe people really want me to jeopardise opportunities and job security by playing obstructionist politics.
“Even if we held the Government to ransom in the House of Representatives, the diverse nature of the current Senate means we simply wouldn’t get a GST floor through both houses.”