An audit of Western Australia’s finances has found an extra $344 million in operating surplus, taking the total surplus to $6 billion for the last financial year, a new Australian record.
- The $6 billion surplus is $344 million more than expected
- The government will use the extra money to fund infrastructure
- It also plans to use the money to improve public sector wages
The better-than-expected outcome is a result of expenditure being $576 million lower than what was forecast in the budget, the 2021-22 Annual Report on State Finances has revealed.
However, revenue is down $232 million, which the government said was mainly because of lower royalty collections.
It plans to use the extra money to continue to withdraw state debt and fund infrastructure, as well as fund public sector wages.
Public servants have been campaigning for better wages for months, with nurses and childcare workers among those holding rallies and stop work meetings.
The government’s latest offer is a 3 percent increase for those on salaries above $104,000 and up to 6.2 percent for those on lower incomes, in addition to a one-off $3,000 cost of living payment for all.
Premier Mark McGowan said WA’s economy had grown more than any other state during the pandemic.
“We are using our strong financial position responsibly to address the challenges we face today and to set the state up for the future, including our response to COVID-19, massive spending in our health system, cost of living relief, improving public sector pay and conditions, addressing climate change, investing in social housing, a new women and babies hospital, remote communities, Westport and more,” Mr McGowan said.
“At the same time, we have reduced net debt for a third year in a row, down $4.3 billion to $29.2 billion in 2021-22, the largest ever reduction.
“The state’s debt is now $14.5 billion lower than expected when we came to government.”
But shadow treasurer Steve Thomas said the extra money found in the audit should be used to help West Australians struggling with cost of living pressures.
Call to help struggling families
He said the surplus announced today was the biggest ever recorded by any state in Australian history, and showed the government was “rolling in cash”.
“It has been the greatest fiscal boom of any state or territory in our nation’s history, and it is thanks to the world buying our iron ore as part of their economic stimulus packages,” he said.
“The fact that such an enormous surplus has been announced the same week that fuel prices are going back up – thanks to the ending of the six months fuel excise reduction – shows the Premier has his priorities all wrong.”
He said the government should consider reducing fees and charges, providing targeted cash handouts and reducing employment and housing taxes.