Treasurer against $1b Burswood stadium
Candid: Treasurer Mike Nahan. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian

WA Treasurer Mike Nahan says he does not agree with the decision to spend $1 billion building a new sports stadium at Burswood.

And he believes the State Government's strategy of relying on iron ore royalties to service the State's debt mountain is "risky".

In a candid interview in WestBusiness Insider magazine, to be published on Thursday, Dr Nahan opens up about how growing up on a small farm in the US State of Michigan with 12 brothers and sisters shaped his conservative economic views.

He explains how witnessing "systemic, inbred racism" in a "white-bread" American town pushed him to become a champion of multiculturalism - and fierce opponent of WA racist Jack van Tongeren.

"There's no doubt that I am much more fiscally conservative than Colin," he says when comparing his economic views with Premier Colin Barnett's.

"None, whatsoever. What would I do differently? Would I have done Elizabeth Quay? Yeah, we are going to make money off that.

"Would I do the City Link? Hell yes, should have been done a long time ago. "The stadium? Probably not, myself. I like footy, I probably wouldn't have done the stadium.

"I can understand it is very popular. Probably not, but as a Government minister I am committed to it.

"But I probably wouldn't have gone ahead with that."

Dr Nahan said WA lost its AAA credit rating not because of the size of the State's debt but because of the volatility of revenue.

"It is being funded increasingly by iron ore royalties that are highly volatile and are from a market that is new, unpredictable, don't know where it's going to go," he said. "And that's risky."

Dr Nahan said lessons learnt on the family farm influenced his views of the world.

"You learn markets very quickly," he says. "You learn what a perfectly competitive world is - which is agriculture.

"Then I worked in Asia on various aid programs. You saw that the intention of governments was good to help economic growth and development but you saw how most of it was completely wasted.

"How markets, entrepreneurship and personal drive did so much better."

Dr Nahan, whose wife Nyuk is Malaysian Chinese, is Minister for Multicultural Affairs. He has been the MP for the ethnically diverse seat of Riverton since 2008.

In WestBusiness Insider, he explains how growing up he witnessed "systemic, inbred racism at almost all levels".

It was an experience that steeled his resolve to fight against the racist policies of the Australian Nationalist Movement in the 1980s. "When I first came to WA, you had (ANM head) van Tongeren," Dr Nahan said.

"I got active with the Chinese community back then. They had to respond to that in-your-face, confrontational racism.

"That was also the time when John Howard questioned whether we should have that much Asian migration.

"He was worried about the change in values. He was wrong."

The West Australian

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