The West

Buswell tips more big cuts
Warning: Troy Buswell. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian

Treasurer Troy Buswell has begun laying the groundwork for a divisive State Budget, flagging further cuts to WA's ambitious capital investment program, privatisation of assets and services and more public sector redundancies.

Mr Buswell said ratings agency Standard & Poor's were "probably right" in September when it observed the Government lacked the political will for hard reform, but he insisted a fresh approach was under way.

Kicking off the Budget speculation season with a lively speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia in Perth yesterday, Mr Buswell revealed the first asset earmarked for privatisation, aimed at regaining the AAA credit rating S&P downgraded.

The Government has given the Dampier Port Authority permission to sell multi-user infrastructure to a private bidder who must agree to upgrade the facilities, boosting the capacity at the port.

Mr Buswell said the public could expect to see more use of the private sector by the Government and "we shouldn't be embarrassed about that".

"There's a lot of ill-informed political debate, not economic debate, but political debate about who owns what and does what, and we need to push through some opposition about some of the things we are going to want to do," he said.

Mr Buswell said more cuts would follow the $1.87 billion shaved from the $27 billion capital investment program in December's mid-year review because "we can't afford it".

Mr Buswell said he also expected more voluntary redundancies in the public service.

"Last year one of the ratings agencies said (we didn't) have the political ticker to do hard things, and they were probably right," he said. "But I'll give you a tip. I don't think they will be saying that for much longer."

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said the admission was a "direct attack on the Premier", who junked unpopular planks of Mr Buswell's fiscal action plan before the downgrade.

The West Australian

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