WA surplus revised up ahead of election

Michael Ramsey
·2-min read

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has been handed a gift ahead of the state election, with a forecast budget surplus revised up to $3.1 billion.

Treasury's pre-election financial projections statement, released on Monday, is headlined by a $900 million boost to the state's bottom line.

A surplus of $2.2 billion this financial year had been forecast in December's mid-year economic review.

The increase is driven by a higher than expected iron ore price and strong activity in the residential property market.

"We have the strongest budget management and strongest economic management of anywhere in Australia," Mr McGowan told reporters.

"And that is because of four years of hard work."

The timing couldn't be better for the Labor government with just over a fortnight to go until early voting starts for the March 13 poll.

Up to a million voters are expected to cast their ballots prior to election day.

Iron ore royalty revenue is forecast to surge $2.1 billion higher this financial year than forecast in the mid-year review, while taxation revenue is up $224 million.

It has been partly offset by a 12-month deferral of interim dividends for large public corporations at a cost of $1.5 billion - a decision Treasurer Ben Wyatt said was made to smooth the revenue intake over the next four years.

The hospitality sector has called for small businesses to be given greater support after suffering losses during last week's five-day COVID-19 lockdown.

A $500 offset on electricity bills is expected to be taken up by about 100,000 small businesses and charities affected by the lockdown.

"Some people argued that it wasn't enough but every time you do things like that you're just borrowing more money," Mr McGowan said.

"We've provided some support to business, the best thing we can do is get them up and operational as soon as we can which is what we've done."

WA's teachers union last month urged the cashed-up government to remove a public sector wage freeze which has remained in place since 2017.

A new poll published by the West Australian newspaper on Monday showed Mr McGowan had retained an extraordinary 88 per cent approval rating.

Most voters disapproved or had no opinion of Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup, a first-term MP who on Monday promised a Liberal government would rename Optus Stadium to Perth Stadium by ending a 10-year deal with the telco provider.

"There's no doubt we're the underdogs," Mr Kirkup said.

"The election is and was always going to be difficult, particularly during a pandemic, but that doesn't mean we don't put our plans and policies for the future of our state."