WA Treasurer’s GST whinge a bit rich: Eslake

Saul Eslake

Saul Eslake

WESTERN Australia whingeing about GST revenue carve-up is like a pensioner complaining about paying income tax after winning the lottery, according to a leading economist.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch chief economist Saul Eslake said criticisms of how GST was distributed by West Australian Treasurer Mike Nahan were laced with shades of hypocrisy.

Dr Nahan this week claimed Tasmania’s share of the federal tax revenue was allowing its residents to live in a state with ‘‘no jobs and no prospects’’.

He lamented that two-thirds of GST revenue raised in Western Australia was redistributed elsewhere around the country, and called on Tasmanians to relocate to his home state, which he described as ‘‘propping up’’ the nation’s growth.

Mr Eslake pointed out until the commodities boom in the early 2000s, Western Australia was more often than not a net beneficiary of GST revenues and similar federal taxes.

‘‘It’s a bit hypocritical of Western Australia to turn around and complain about the system now they can finally afford to pitch in,’’ Mr Eslake said.

He said there was no rationale for arguing GST revenue raised in Western Australia – ‘‘by far the richest state in the country’’ – should all be spent within its borders.

Mr Eslake said Dr Nahan’s claims investing in Western Australia would create far more jobs than spending money on the North-West Coast were misleading.

‘‘Now the construction phase of the WA mining boom is over and the operation phase has started kicking in, investment in the state doesn’t generate much employment at all,’’ he said.

‘‘In fact, major investments in Tasmania could well be far more labour-intensive than those in Western Australia.’’

Tasmanian Council of Social Services chief executive Tony Reidy said Dr Nahan’s comments were offensive.

‘‘The last thing Tasmania needs is some sort of social engineering aimed at destroying Tasmanian communities we have worked so hard to support,’’ Mr Reidy said.

Demographer Lisa Denny said shifting skilled Tasmanian workers interstate would have a detrimental impact on the state’s population.

Ms Denny said it was also very difficult for unemployed and unskilled residents to afford moving elsewhere for work.

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