Strong public transport commitments have been announced in the McGowan Government’s first budget for Western Australia. But in a tough environment where a surplus won’t be seen until 2020-21, climate change and energy have been all but forgotten.
The first budget of the new Labor government was always going to be tough, with an election commitment not to raise taxes along with rising debt from a slowing economy. However there are a range of new tax measures, including royalty increases on gold and a payroll tax hike for large businesses, as well as 3000 public sector redundancies.
All up the budget deficit will be $3 billion, and government expects net debt to reach $43.8 billion by 2020, before a surplus is achieved in 2020-21.
A key plank in the budget is the government’s METRONET public transport strategy, which has been given $1.34 billion over four years, including:
- $441 million to extend the Joondalup line to Yanchep
- $423 for the Thornlie-Cockburn Link
- $323 million for 102 rail cars
“METRONET is our long-term plan to not just reduce traffic congestion, but to connect our suburbs and drive sustainable new developments,” transport minister Rita Saffioti said.
“As further planning work is completed on a number of METRONET projects, additional funding will be announced as part of subsequent budgets.”
The news was welcomed by the Property Council.
“It is pleasing that the budget contains funding commitments for METRONET as this will deliver density in and around station precincts,” Property Council WA executive director Lino Iacomella said.
Roads have received record funding of $2.7 billion, and cycling improvements will also be funded to the tune of $129 million, as recently reported.
The state’s peak environment group, Conservation Council of WA, welcomed the METRONET and cycling funding, with director Piers Verstegen saying it would work to reduce congestion and get cars off road.
He also welcomed $1.68 million over three years investment in a container deposit scheme, which he said would “increase recycling and reduce pollution, but will also create new jobs and new enterprise opportunities here in WA”.
“Overall the allocations to environmental agencies have been very low over the past few years, and that hasn’t changed. But in this budget condition, we think it’s not likely we’re going to see those increases anytime soon,” he said.
On housing, like similar moves in other states, foreign buyers will be hit with a four per cent charge on residential property purchases, which is predicted to net the government $49 million over the forward estimates, though drew ire from the Property Council.
The first home owners grant will also be kept at $10,000.
Other infrastructure measures include $465 million towards new school builds, upgrades and redevelopments; and $741 million for the construction of new health facilities.