A furious Colin Barnett was the odd man out after a meeting of the nation’s leaders failed to give the West Australian premier what he wanted on the GST.
As Prime Minister Tony Abbott and other state and territory leaders talked about the co-operative nature of discussions in Canberra on Friday, Mr Barnett was bluntly dismissive.
“I must have been at a different meeting,” he told reporters after the Council of Australian Governments gathering, adding the GST was the elephant in the room.
Mr Barnett had gone into the meeting hoping to win support for a change in the way GST revenue is distributed amongst the states and territories.
WA faces losing $300 million in 2015/2016 if the federal governments accepts the recommendations of the independent grants commission.
In the end, the premier came away with a promise of further talks with Mr Abbott about how best to address the immediate impact on WA.
But the prospect of a one-off transitional payment from the commonwealth budget looks remote.
“There will be no free gifts for any state or territory,” Mr Abbott said.
Instead the prime minister hinted that some infrastructure funds might be available for WA.
The COAG meeting resolved to put the GST distribution arrangements under the microscope of the white paper on reform of the federation.
“Making changes on the fly to GST distribution arrangements which have been around for quite a long time now is not my idea of optimal government,” Mr Abbott said.
Mr Barnett, who called for abolition of the grants commission, will have to be satisfied with proposing ways to reform the independent process of distributing GST revenue.
The premier said all he was asking for was that WA’s situation got no worse, noting West Australians only received back 38 cents in every GST dollar they pay.
That will fall below 30 cents next year.
“You can understand why I’m angry, you can understand why West Australians are angry,” Mr Barnett said.
Mr Abbott flagged putting a floor under GST distribution, so that every state knew the minimum percentage of the pool they would receive. Mr Barnett said a floor of 50 cents in the dollar was discussed.
Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman said the future of the federation would have been undermined if COAG had agreed to make allowances for WA at the expense of other states.
In welcoming further discussions about reforms to the federation, he said that needed to be done outside the annual argy-bargy of the GST distribution.
“The political bun fight serves no great purpose,” Mr Hodgman said.
Earlier, federal Labor leader Bill Shorten renewed his call for WA to be given one-off financial assistance.
“Do something in this budget, not wait till there’s a train wreck,” he told reporters in Perth.