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Labor plans to support fund with future zero debt hope
Labor plans to support fund with future zero debt hope

The Bill to create a WA future fund will overcome a big hurdle this week when it is expected to pass the Lower House.

After Labor MPs spent last week lambasting the Barnett Government's plan to create the $1.1 billion fund in the face of soaring State debt, the Opposition promised yesterday to support the Bill.

But if elected, shadow treasurer Ben Wyatt said a Labor government would put the fund on hold until the government's net debt was reduced to zero.

Money allocated for the future fund would be "reallocated" to public transport, regional roads and science and technology projects.

Mr Wyatt said it was economic madness to lock money away in a fund when the Budget papers predicted State debt would rocket to $18.6 billion this financial year, up from $3.6 billion when the Liberal Government was elected.

"It costs more money to service the debt than the money will make in the future fund," he said.

Labor would try this week to amend the Bill so the fund could not be established until the government had no general net debt.

Premier Colin Barnett said Labor's position did not make sense because big infrastructure projects were always paid for over a number of years rather than up-front.

"WA will not always be as prosperous as it is today so let's take some of the value of minerals and petroleum . . . and put it away for future generations," he said.

Mr Barnett was confident projections about the fund's growth - it is expected to swell to $4.7 billion by 2032 - would not be affected by fluctuations in the price of iron ore.

The fund would be set up with unspent Royalties for Regions money as well as fines, with one per cent of all mining royalties going into it thereafter.

"We have taken a conservative view of the future fund and I think you will find over time, far more will go into it than people anticipate at this stage," Mr Barnett said.

"I expect demand for iron ore, natural gas and other minerals and petroleum products will be strong because we sit close to Asia with its two billion people, rising living standards and rising incomes."