Matt O’Sullivan: Cook’s appointment leaves WA’s share of GST wide open to change

Mon, 5 June 2023

The appointment of Roger Cook as WA premier will set off alarm bells for many West Australians regarding the security of our GST arrangements.

When he took office, Anthony Albanese’s decision to reduce WA’s Cabinet representation back to a historic low of one served as an unmistakable signal that the GST arrangements in WA were again in jeopardy.

This decision left our State without a voice on crucial economic matters in Canberra, making the “Stand up for WA” slogan, campaigned on by the Prime Minister in 2022, sound as half-baked as an undercooked souffle.
And now, with the unexpected retirement of Mark McGowan, there are calls already from NSW Labor Premier Chris Minns and other Eastern State leaders to carve up WA’s GST share.

The GST outcome was hard fought and delivered by my Federal Liberal colleagues in the years before I entered Parliament in 2019.

Former premier Colin Barnett laid the foundation by first identifying the issue. By the time the Productivity Commission concluded its review of the GST arrangements, McGowan was premier, and it was up to him to hold off his counterparts in other States and drag his WA Labor Federal colleagues to support our State’s position.

McGowan adeptly manoeuvred the political landscape during the GST debate, but his departure places him in danger of having won the political battle while WA loses the fiscal war.

WA is now left with an untested premier who inherits all of McGowan’s baggage but has no political capital to deal with counterparts on the east coast.

The past week’s events have drastically changed the political playing field both in WA and nationally. WA Labor has lost its most politically popular leader. At the same time, Albanese finds himself bereft of his most persuasive advocate in WA, who delivered him decisive swings and a majority government at the last Federal election.

With an untried premier at the helm and just a solitary junior representative in Anthony Albanese’s Cabinet, WA is now highly vulnerable to the whims and wishes of those across the Nullarbor.

It’s also particularly telling that McGowan didn’t feel there was anyone else he could trust with the Treasury portfolio after Ben Wyatt retired.

The ultimate irony lies in McGowan appointing himself to the treasury position two years ago, only to retire prematurely because he felt exhausted and overworked.

There are no great options in WA Labor to take on the Treasury portfolio if we want to keep WA’s fair share of GST.
As the 2025 elections draw near, the people of WA will face the crucial task of determining who is best suited to safeguard our rightful share. With wall-to-wall Labor across the mainland, we will need a strong WA premier who isn’t subservient to their east coast Labor allies.

The time is coming for voters to re-evaluate our State’s priorities. Cook inherits the burden of McGowan’s east coast baggage but none of his influence, leaving WA vulnerable in the approaching GST battle. The alternative is to elect a fresh Liberal State team that won’t be bullied into submission by State and Federal Labor leaders.

Equally, we don’t need Federal Labor members who can’t even bargain for fair representation for WA in Albanese’s Cabinet. Federal Liberals will always hold Labor to account and continue in the legacy of Liberals before them who delivered a fair share of GST for WA.

As the GST stakes escalate for WA, the power is in our hands to elect representatives who will fiercely protect our prosperity and champion fair outcomes for our State.