WA Treasurer agrees she is nation’s best and accuses ‘attackable’ Victoria of arguing with maths

Jake Dietsch
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Post Budget Breakfast with Rita Saffioti.
Post Budget Breakfast with Rita Saffioti. Credit: Iain Gillespie/The West Australian

Rita Saffioti has jokingly agreed she is the country’s best Treasurer and described the fellow-Labor Government in Victoria as “very attackable” — just days before her Federal counterpart delivers his Budget.

Ms Saffioti posted a $3.2 billion surplus in her first Budget on Thursday — WA’s seventh consecutive year in the black, with the resources-rich State spending big on infrastructure and doling out payments of up to $250 for every school kid and $400 power credits to households and small businesses.

It comes just days after a Victorian Budget was handed down which revealed a deficit of nearly $3.5b and that the Melbourne Airport rail link delayed. However there was also sweeteners, with the Victorian Budget still paying out $400 to parents of children at school.

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Dr Jim Chalmers told media on Friday that he was “not especially” concerned that big-spending budgets from States would fuel inflation.

“This cost-of-living challenge is so substantial that we need all shoulders to the wheel and so I think that that cost-of-living relief that the various State governments have announced will be welcomed by the people that we jointly represent — and is welcomed by us,” Dr Chalmers said.

However, Dr Chalmers might have to wait until Tuesday’s Federal Budget before he gets top billing, according to his WA counterpart.

When Ms Saffioti was asked by State politics editor Josh Zimmerman at a post-Budget breakfast on Friday if she agreed with Premier Roger Cook that she was “the greatest treasurer in Australia,” she laughed while replying “I always back in what the Premier says, so yes”.

Asked by The West Australian’s state politics editor Josh Zimmerman if she was the nation’s best treasurer just 12 months into the job, she laughed while replying “I always back in what the Premier says, so yes”. that the answer was “yes”.

The WA Treasurer’s speech touting her Budget was full of gibes at Victoria, which has argued WA’s share of the GST under 2018 Commonwealth law — which ensures no State receives less than 75 cents for each dollar it sends — is unfair.

Ms Saffioti claimed other States should instead be “grateful” to WA.

Responding to Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas who said that WA’s contribution to the other States was “limited”, Ms Saffioti pointed out that since the 2018 deal, WA had still contributed $13b to other States.

Ms Saffioti invoked Looney Tunes character Foghorn Leghorn who said; “that’s mathematics, son. You can argue with me but you can’t argue with the figures.”

And when asked to defend further blowouts to WA Labor’s flagship Metronet public transport program — which saw a cost escalation of more than $700m in this Budget alone — Ms Saffioti again attacked Victoria.

“In the Victorian State Budget — and again, not wanting to always attack Victorians, but they seem very attackable at the moment — they had one rail line for 9km that’s costing at least $13b,” she said.

“Now we’re delivering 72km of new rail line . . . And we’re delivering it in an affordable way because we’ve got debt under control.”

Dr Chalmers conceded that things in the west were definitely looking rosier than in other states.

“The West Australian budget is in a bit better nick than some of the other Budgets — we were talking about that on the way here — but overwhelmingly, there’s pressures on all of the budgets,” Dr Chalmers said in a press conference with Finance Minister Katy Gallagher on Friday.

However, he said his Budget, to be handed down on Tuesday, would be responsible and restrained.

The papers will show real spending growth will average 1.4 per cent over the six years from 2022-23 (when Labor took office) to 2027-28 — less than the 30-year average growth rate of 3.2 per cent.

“There will be savings in the Budget, there will be spending restraint in the Budget so that we can get the Budget in much better nick to make room for our priorities, which are cost of living and the Future Made in Australia,” Dr Chalmers said.

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