Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan says “the world has gone literally mad”, after facing political opposition to the state’s forecast surplus of $1.2 billion this financial year.
Mr McGowan and Treasurer Ben Wyatt began spruiking their “safe and strong” state budget, which was handed down on Thursday, at a traditional post-budget breakfast in Perth.
The budget revealed surpluses are forecast to continue over the next four years, dropping to $363 million in 2021/22 and rebounding to almost $1.5 billion by 2023/24.
“If we get a second wave of coronavirus, if another problem emerges, you don’t want to have blown all your capacity,” Mr McGowan told the breakfast audience.
“Being the only government in Australia in surplus, I think is responsible … and it’s the right position to be in.”
On Thursday, shadow treasurer Dean Nalder expressed frustration about the forecast, saying households and businesses experiencing “tough times” through the COVID-19 pandemic were not being supported adequately.
“We haven’t bankrupted the state. We haven’t thrown everything out the door,” Mr McGowan said.
“The world has gone literally mad when those sorts of things are being said.”
‘This isn’t an iron ore story’: Wyatt
Bumper iron ore royalties helped WA deliver the surplus, with royalties expected to generate $7.4 billion this financial year alone.
But Mr Wyatt said it was not simply royalties that had landed WA in a strong economic position.
“This isn’t an iron ore story, this is a financial management story,” Mr Wyatt said.
“Yes, iron ore is strong, yes iron ore is doing the wonderful things it does for the state, but I will never, ever base a budget upon a high iron ore price.”
COVID-19 bulk carrier set to depart
Meanwhile, Mr McGowan has confirmed the COVID-19-infected bulk carrier anchored off the WA coast is expected to depart on Saturday, with most of its crew recovered from the virus.
A coronavirus outbreak on the Patricia Oldendorff was revealed in September and infected crew were brought onshore to recover in hotel quarantine in Port Hedland.
Mr McGowan said 18 crew members had recovered.
“We expect they will be onboard to sail the ship away,” Mr McGowan said.
“Three of the crew members we expect will remain here, be transferred by charter to Perth, put into quarantine and then the company will be responsible for repatriating those people following that process.
“As you know, during this process sometimes plans change, but we’re expecting she will sail tomorrow following a deep clean and the people being repatriated to the ship.”
WA had two new cases of COVID-19 overnight, both returned overseas travellers who remain in hotel quarantine.