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Metronet costing row heats up
Costing row: Labor's Metronet plan.

The row over the Government using the public service to cost Opposition policies intensified yesterday, with Labor asking whether the practice was in breach of the Public Sector Management Act.

Transport Minister Troy Buswell angered Labor on Tuesday by claiming its Metronet public transport plan would cost $6.4 billion, a figure it says is wildly inflated.

Shadow treasurer Ben Wyatt said the Public Transport Authority produced the figure after Mr Buswell directed taxpayer resources to the "party-political" task.

In a letter to the Public Sector Commissioner Mal Wauchope, Mr Wyatt quoted PTA chief executive Reece Waldock on Channel 7 News saying the authority gave Mr Buswell "some numbers" on Opposition policies.

Mr Wyatt asked whether this breached the Public Sector Management Act, which in section 7b says public sector agencies are to respond effectively to "Government policies and priorities".

Opposition election commitments were neither Government policies nor priorities, he wrote.

Mr Wyatt questioned whether senior public service managers were now on the Liberal campaign team.

For the second day, Mr Buswell refused to release the assumptions and variables behind the $6.4 billion figure, despite repeated requests from _The West Australian _.

"It is entirely appropriate, as the responsible minister and Treasurer, to request costings from the PTA and other agencies on a range of proposals, including the obviously unaffordable Metronet," he said.

"While I will continue to release more information over the next few weeks across a range of policies the Opposition has already released, it is entirely their responsibility as an alternative government to inform the public what their proposals will cost and demonstrate they have the capacity to deliver on them in a fiscally responsible manner."

Premier Colin Barnett said it was appropriate for a minister to direct their department to cost any proposals they liked, but only until election writs were issued triggering the so-called "caretaker mode". He said it was up to the minister to decide whether to release such costings but he was "sure" Mr Buswell would in future.