WA premier flags cost of living relief

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Premier Mark McGowan is promising the state budget will deliver cost of living relief for West Australians while fixing the troubled health system.

Mr McGowan, in his capacity as treasurer, is expected to unveil another mining-fuelled multi-billion dollar surplus when he delivers the budget next Thursday.

Additional health funding looms as a major focus amid near-record ambulance ramping, hospital capacity issues and staff shortages.

But with the cost of essential goods increasing and the Reserve Bank of Australia raising the cash rate on Tuesday for the first time in more than a decade, Mr McGowan has confirmed there will also be hip-pocket relief.

"Obviously we have managed the finances in a way that has delivered surpluses and will continue to deliver surpluses, the only government in Australia doing so," he told reporters.

"That gives us additional capacity to provide support for families across the state as we have in past budgets.

"We'll hand it down when it's due but cost of living is obviously one of our major focuses."

The McGowan government in 2020 used a pre-election pandemic budget to freeze fees and charges and provide households with a $600 power bill credit.

Last year's budget kept household fees and charges below inflation, which has risen by 7.6 per cent in Perth in the past 12 months.

The rise in costs has prompted calls from the Liberal and National opposition for the government to again freeze fees and charges.

Mr McGowan on Tuesday announced an additional $223 million investment in health infrastructure, taking the total spend over the next four years to $1.6 billion.

It includes $16.7 million to open 10 new intensive care beds at Perth's Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

The government has already promised to pour a further $252 million into emergency departments amid a sustained surge in ambulance ramping, where patients face long waits to be handed over to hospitals by paramedics.

Mr McGowan described fixing ambulance ramping as a top priority for his government.

He said a promise by his federal Labor counterparts to deliver bulk-billed urgent care clinics across Australia if elected on May 21 would significantly help by lowering demand on EDs.

"We have the lowest number of GPs per capita of any state in Australia, and that is outside of our control," he said, adding that other states had more universities training medical students.

"And then we have hundreds of people occupying hospital beds who should be in aged care or should be in disability care. All these things are adding up."

Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said the government was continuing an interstate and overseas hospital staff recruitment drive, with around 2000 health workers currently furloughed in WA after contracting COVID-19.

She said the number of full time equivalent staff had increased by 1100 since January last year.

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