The WA Government has left the door open to backflipping on a pair of key election promises after less than three months in office, refusing to guarantee its commitment not to introduce new taxes still stands.
- During election campaign Labor pledged not to increase taxes
- But now it won’t rule it out, saying the financial picture has changed
- They are also refusing to commit to their pledge to move Perth Modern School to a new building in the CBD
Education Minister Sue Ellery also would not guarantee the Government would push ahead with its controversial plans for Perth Modern School, after a significant backlash to the proposal in recent months.
On the state budget, Premier Mark McGowan repeatedly said during the election campaign there “would be no new taxes or increases [of] taxes on West Australians” if Labor was elected.
But today, asked repeatedly whether the commitment still stood, Treasurer Ben Wyatt refused to give a guarantee.
“You have to as a Government respond to the circumstances you find and that is what we will do,” he said.
“We don’t want to break promises but, as has been crystal clear, the finances have deteriorated since [pre-election estimates].
“Decisions we make will reflect that broader position I have taken, that is looking to everyone to help contribute.”
Asked if he was prepared to repeat the “no new taxes” line, Mr Wyatt said: “I can certainly say to you that it is not my intention.”
The prospect of a backflip on taxes comes as the new Government attempts to tackle the state’s dire financial position, with debt forecast to rise above $40 billion and Treasury predicting a $3-billion deficit this financial year.
The Government has also argued its books have taken a further hit since the election, with write-downs in projected iron ore royalty income and a lower-than-expected share of GST revenue.
Another option the Government has considered is to get miners BHP and Rio Tinto to “cash out” an iron ore lease rental they are subject to by paying it in advance, instead of over time.
But Rio Tinto said it was not in formal discussions over the idea and they had previously rejected the proposal.
Perth Modern move in doubt
The Government also repeatedly refused to guarantee its plans to overhaul Perth Modern School — and build a new academically-selective institution in the CBD — still stood.
That proposal, which would see the Perth Modern site become a regular local intake high school, has sparked significant criticism from parents and alumni of the school.
Mr McGowan insisted last week the Government was undeterred by the controversy and would push ahead with its plan, but Ms Ellery declined to guarantee that.
“I will have more to say about the detail of what we are going to do soon enough,” she said.
Asked if the Government would consider reverting to the previous Government’s plan of reopening City Beach High School, Ms Ellery would not rule it out.