State to sell $200m of land
State to sell $200m of land

The Barnett Government needs to sell $200 million of State-owned land within three years to meet its current Budget projections - and that's before it pays down a single dollar of State debt from its planned program of asset sales.

In the May Budget, Treasurer Mike Nahan announced an "orderly program of asset sales" overseen by Colin Barnett, with the funds to be used to cut debt from its record $22 billion level.

The Premier has repeatedly said that land would be among the first things sold to cut debt.

But The West Australian can reveal that former treasurer Troy Buswell's final Budget in 2013-14 made provision for $100 million of revenue from Government land sales in 2015-16 and $100 million in 2016-17 - provisions that have not been detailed until now.

The assumptions are contained deep in the 2013-14 Budget papers' financial summary of Mr Buswell's fiscal action plan, his centrepiece strategy for containing the growth of debt. The two, $100 million savings in 2015-16 and 2016-17, are contained in a line item described as "program evaluation".

There is no commentary elsewhere in the Budget papers about what "program evaluation" entails, but in response to questions from The West Australian a spokesman for Dr Nahan confirmed the amounts were for "assumed land sales".

"In this regard, the Government has identified that many agencies are holding on to surplus or underutilised land, and the Government is keen to unlock the value of this land as part of its asset sales program," he said.

It means the Government needs to sell $200 million of land by July 2017 just to keep up with its financial projection, which pegs debt at $27.6 billion then, rising to $29.4 billion in July 2018.

Shadow treasurer Ben Wyatt accused the Government of "financial spivery", saying it was the latest in a series of Budget "fiddles and dodges".

"You've got a number of examples now - not only have they booked revenue from land sales two years prior to the sale, they have done a similar thing around the (mining) royalties review, booking revenue before the review is complete," he said.

"You've also got a Budget that assumes savings in the efficiency of the hospital system.

"And this is the great danger of the financial model Mr Barnett has taken on - these sort of dodgy assumptions around savings and revenue years in advance; which puts the State in a position of being forced to sell land regardless of the market conditions when we eventually reach that financial year."

The West Australian

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