The State Government will sell assets so it can continue to fund the big infrastructure projects for which WA is “famous”, including its now-$2.2 billion airport rail link, Premier Colin Barnett says.
In his address to the WA Liberal Party State conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel this morning, Mr Barnett said the majority of future major projects would be financed by the selling of assets, starting with land sales.
He said significant parcels of prime real estate would be coming onto the market, including hospital sites.
“It is not going to be a fire sale, it is not going to be a panic,” Mr Barnett said.
“It is going to be an orderly process.
“Undertaking big projects, like the railway through to the airport and Forrestfield, requires large amounts of capital expenditure.”
Mr Barnett said the State’s debt had risen to $22 billion, but it was “good debt” because it had not been used to pay wages or for recurrent expenditure.
“That is higher than I would like, but it is good debt,” Mr Barnett said.
“It has been debt to build long-term assets like the hospitals, like schools, like this rail project.
“But nevertheless, it is becoming a real constraint on our ability to continue the big thinking and the big projects for which this State is famous, so we are having to adjust.”
Mr Barnett said the Government would have built $64 billion worth of infrastructure in two terms, 60 per cent of which had been financed by Government revenues and budget surpluses and 40 per cent by increases in debt.
He said the distribution of the GST was the biggest issue the State faced and, while the argument for reform had been won, a result was yet to achieved.
It would be “a great humiliation” for the Australian Liberal Party if Palmer United Party boss Clive Palmer was to take the lead on the GST issue.
“It’s a disgrace,” Mr Barnett said.
“The distribution of the GST is not in any way controlled by the States.
“My argument today is not with the other States – it is with the Commonwealth Government.”
In making his expected announcement about the underground Forrestfield-Airport rail link, Mr Barnett said the project’s revised price tag of $2.2 billion was “generous”.
He said the journey from Forrestfield to the city would take 20 minutes.
Construction would start in 2016 and the line would be operation in 2020.
“The budget is probably a generous one. It has been estimated at $2.2 billion, but that includes very large contingency and escalation factors,” he said.
“We are hopeful we will deliver it below that.
“There is still a great deal of work to be done.”
Transport Minister Dean Nalder said 8km line would carry 20,000 passengers a day by 2021.
He said the budget for the project had grown to $2.2 billion because the Government had now conducted a full analysis and Perth’s population growth had been taken into consideration.
Mr Nalder said that was tipped to increase to almost 30,000 boardings by 2030.
Mr Barnett said the Government’s focus for this term would be in the areas of transport and education.
Liberal State director Ben Morton told the conference he was “sick to death of negativity” from within the party.
Mr Morton said he was confident that the Liberal Party could win a third term in 2017.
Mr Barnett said the party would be aggressive at the next election.