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Perth Liberal state conference: GST and Secession

WA Liberal State Conference

WA Liberal State Conference

Andrew Fewster

Andrew Fewster

WA Liberal State Conference

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The Perth annual Liberal Party state conference has yielded interesting results, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promising GST reform and a motion for WA to secede and establish financial independence.

Turnbull promised reform of the GST system, moving towards establishing a 70% floor on the share any state would receive from the GST. This wouldn’t be implemented until after Western Australia’s share had started to recover, however, meaning it would do little to alleviate the current GST imbalance.

“Only the coalition has a plan to set a GST floor in the future in a way that is fair, and will deliver a durable solution that addresses our national economic interest,” Turnbull said.

“Over the next few years the GST sharing scheme will rebalance. Once that happens we will be able to consider a percentage floor below which no state or territory share can fall.

“In the meantime the Productivity Commission is analysing the way the GST formula operates.”

This announcement was challenged by the Western Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), who said that a GST floor should be implemented immediately.

“Any claim that the Government must wait for the outcome of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry to announce a GST floor is misleading,” said CCI Chief Economist Rick Newnham.

“A GST floor can be introduced immediately without requiring the agreement of all states and territories.

“Both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten have indicated that 70 cents is a fair minimum for any state’s GST share.”

A motion to establish a committee to examine whether WA should secede was passed, meaning a committee will need to be established to examine whether WA should become an independent state within the Commonwealth.

The economic situation of WA was a common theme throughout the conference, with many of the speeches seeking to address the issue.

Former state Treasurer and current state opposition leader Mike Nahan was one of those, admitting the previous Barnett Liberal Government had made some missteps.

“We are in a new era, we have a new team,” Nahan announced.

“We have to learn from our mistakes… and to be honest we made some mistakes otherwise we would be in government.”

Nahan also made a call to identify a demographic as “Mike’s Mates”, in a style similar to the former Prime Ministers Sir Robert Menzies’ and John Howard, with their ‘forgotten people’ and ‘battlers’ respectively.

During the conference Turnbull took an opportunity to praise his cashless welfare card system, which is going to be rolled out in Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

“I am proud to be leading a government that is committed to making families stronger, committed to ensuring that our welfare system does everything it can to ensure that Australians who are on welfare get off welfare and get into a job” he said.

He also accused the Labor and Greens parties of believing that “welfare recipients should be able to spend as much of their welfare on drugs and alcohol as they like.”

The Greens accuse the card of being “patronising, paternalistic and ideologically driven” and claim that it is not effective.

“This is a form of compulsory income management and evidence shows that doesn’t work,” a statement on their website about the cards says.

“What it will do is take choice, control and dignity away from people trying to live off very little.”

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Perth Liberal state conference: GST and Secession