State Budget sets scene for State Election

Treasurer Ben Wyatt delivered his fourth budget last Thursday, confirming the State Government had pivoted from a debt reduction strategy to supporting and investing in economic recovery across WA.

The budget, which is forecast to deliver a $1.2 billion operating surplus for 2020-21, was dominated by previously announced initiatives such as the State Recovery Plan, METRONET and Perth City Deal projects. It sets the scene for further announcements and projects to be announced in the lead up to the State Election in March next year.

As called for in our pre-budget submission, the State Government confirmed there would be no new or additional taxes and charges on the property sector, although overall revenue from property taxes is expected to increase over the medium term.

Population growth forecast remained low at 0.8%, which was double the forecast made by the Commonwealth in their Federal Budget last Tuesday. Treasurer Ben Wyatt told an industry briefing that State Treasury were seeking to understand the difference between the two forecasts.

A key focus of the budget included the recruitment of a further 800 police across the State, which would give WA the most police of any state or territory on a per capita basis. Government officials confirmed to the Property Council that this measure will provide WA Police the capacity to reinstate Operation Heat Shield in the Perth CBD. Operation Heat Shield was run over the first half of 2020 in a range of locations across Perth and is an initiative supported by our members to increase police visibility and monitor anti-social behaviour in key precincts.

A new Infrastructure Delivery Unit will be established within the Department of Finance at a cost of $9.7 million, to enable a more efficient roll out of the $27 billion worth of infrastructure announcements included in the budget. Infrastructure announcements included $100 million to introduce a Smart Freeway system between Joondalup and Vincent Street, as well as $7.5 billion for regional infrastructure projects. Road and heavy rail dominate the program of work funded in the budget.

This year’s budget also provided more clarity about funding for the Perth City Deal, including which delivery agencies have certain responsibilities and timeframes for that funding to be delivered. The previously announced Perth CBD Transport Plan, which includes the new pedestrian and cycling bridge between Victoria Park and East Perth, will form part of the City Deal funding package through the Department of Transport. Meanwhile, the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries have been provided some early funding to meet their cultural experience projects within the Perth City Deal over the forward estimates.

Mental Health was a big winner, with spending to exceed more than $1 billion for the first time after $306 million of new initiatives to combat suicide prevention, drugs, alcohol abuse and homeless were included.

Property Council WA Executive Director Sandra Brewer welcomed the State Government’s decision to invest more in infrastructure while also budgeting for surpluses.

“This is a sensible approach, but it also means the WA Government will be able to call on funds to meet new and emerging challenges as we work our way beyond the impact of COVID-19,” Ms Brewer said.

“By shifting their priorities from debt reduction to support and investment over the short term, it shows Government understands the economic challenges facing business and the need to provide a clear signal that it is doing what it can to help those who need it.”

“As one of WA’s big economic drivers which supports 300,000 jobs, we’re pleased the Government has avoided increasing property taxes and charges which would have stifled our industry’s contribution to economic recovery.

You can read Sandra’s comments on the need for a plan to safely re-open WA’s borders to attract migration, here.

Our budget brief looking at some of the key economic indicators and data is here.