Election pledges under scrutiny

Colin Barnett's 2013 election platform remains largely un- implemented at the financial halfway mark of his second term with more than 20 major pledges watered down, delayed or unrecognisable from what was promised.

Analysis by The West Australian of two of the four Budgets handed down so far this term revealed funding shortfalls, slipped deadlines and policy revisions despite pledges being touted as "fully funded and fully costed" at last year's election.

Mr Barnett did not concede any commitments had been broken, describing departures from what had been promised as "adjustments".

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan branded Mr Barnett as one of WA's most dishonest premiers.

Mr Barnett said less than 15 months into a four-year term that the Government was proud of its record in fulfilling its election commitments but admitted some were delayed because of changing economic circumstances.

They included the loss of the State's AAA credit rating in September and softening revenues from falling iron ore prices, although the biggest halted project - the MAX light rail - was delayed in December's midyear review when revenue forecasts were higher than in Treasury's pre-election financial projections statement.

"I think people understand that it would be irresponsible of any government not to make adjustments to government programs as circumstances dictate," Mr Barnett said.

"These commitments have not been shelved. They will be delivered in a timely manner for the benefit of all West Australians."

Notre Dame University senior politics lecturer Martin Drum said Treasury specifically warned both parties before the election not to make extravagant promises that would imperil the AAA credit rating, so it was difficult to accept the "changing circumstances" excuse.

Mr Barnett declined to comment on 10 of the 22 pledges that The West Australian sought comment on.

His office argued several commitments, including road upgrades to Mitchell Freeway and Reid Highway, were made by Cabinet in December 2012 and were not election promises, despite Liberal candidates campaigning on them. Dr Drum said they still had to be kept and it was reasonable to scrutinise them.

He predicted the Government's delivery of promises would be an issue come the 2017 election. "I believe it will become a question of credibility," he said. "Of course, the public would still have to be convinced that the alternative was more credible in March 2017."

Mr McGowan said last year's election would be remembered "as a disgraceful period of lies and deceit by Colin Barnett". "He deliberately made promises knowing full well that he would break them once re-elected," he said. "Mr Barnett knew exactly what the financial position was when he made his promises and he irresponsibly refused to outline savings to pay for them.

"Just increasing our debt burden was never a smart way to govern. Mr Barnett lost the AAA credit through his own poor financial management and now he is blaming his poor financial management for breaking those promises.

"Mr Barnett inherited the best set of books and he has converted them to the worst."

The West Australian

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