Western Australia’s premier says Thursday’s state budget will reinforce his government’s economic credentials ahead of next year’s election.
Treasurer Ben Wyatt is tipped to defy the global economic downturn by forecasting a modest surplus when he delivers his fourth budget.
A resurgent iron ore price has effectively ensured the finances will be kept in the black despite the $5.5 billion cost of the McGowan government’s COVID-19 state recovery plan.
The handing down of the budget comes as Labor seeks to consolidate its pole position ahead of the state election next March.
“You can expect a stronger state and a safer state,” Premier Mark McGowan said.
“That is our focus – keep people healthy and make sure we create jobs.
“We have been the government with the best financial management in Australia for the last three years and you’ll see that continue.”
The premier has rejected criticism from the state and federal Liberals that the government should be spending more rather than banking a surplus.
“The state government, like all governments, needs to have the capacity to respond if a second wave of coronavirus comes along,” he said.
“The idea that somehow bankrupting the state is a good thing is wrong.”
Whatever surplus is forecast for 2020/21, it won’t be on the scale of the $2.6 billion that was projected for last financial year.
That figure has already been reduced to $1.7 billion in last month’s annual report on state finances, which highlighted a fall in most revenue sources.
The unexpected strength of the iron ore price, which remains around $US120 per tonne, has helped significantly to counter that decline.
But net debt is expected to increase.
Every WA household will receive a $600 credit towards their electricity bills, which is expected to cover average power costs for about four months.
The one-off credit, to be received from November 1, is being funded out of the recent Bell Group settlement, which returned about $665 million to WA taxpayers after costs.