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PM ducks GST amid policy review

Julia Gillard has used her first speech in Western Australia as prime minister to restate the Government's position on the mining tax and asylum seekers.

And she ducked questions on the State's share of GST revenue.

"Fourteen days into the job I’m not going to crack open that chestnut which has bedevilled WA for a very long time," the Prime Minister said at a breakfast in Perth this morning.

The PM made no major announcements to a sell-out audience of 550 people at The West Australian's events program breakfast, but revealed the Government would offer families a new way to access child care payments.

Under the change, families will be able to access childcare payments fortnightly rather than as a quarterly lump sum under the current arrangements.

Families may also elect to have payments sent directly to childcare providers to reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

Ms Gillard conceded the design of the resources super profits tax had harmed confidence in the mining industry, which was why she moved in her first speech as prime minister to throw open the Government’s doors to the miners.

Asked what assurances she could give the mining industry that the proposed rate of the minerals resource rent tax would not increase through negotiations with the Greens in the Senate, Ms Gillard said such a scenario was hypothetical and supposed the Greens would win the balance of power in the next election.

"If the Government is re-elected then we will proceed to legislate as I have outlined. It is not our intention to be diverted from the agreement we have struck," she said.

On asylum seekers, Ms Gillard acknowledged an agreement for a regional processing centre in East Timor would take significant time and it was proper that such a proposal should be debated extensively by the East Timorese parliament.

She tried to sell her idea of a regional processing centre as a "long term solution" to the problem of unauthorised boat arrivals.

"I want to take away from people smugglers the very product they sell," she said.

After her speech, Ms Gillard fielded questions from the floor on topics including gay marriage, oil drilling off the Margaret River Coast and the amount of GST revenue that flowed back to WA compared to other states.

Ms Gillard said her Government had changed laws so that same sex couples were treated equally in financial matters but said civil unions were a matter for State and Territory governments and Labor’s position was that marriage was between a man and a woman.

Answering a question of oil exploration in the South-West, Ms Gillard said the Government would make sure projects adhered to rigorous environmental processes and assessments.

"Nothing will happen without working in detail in a very scientific way all of the environmental issues," she said.