The 2024 WA Budget: What You Need To Know

Who wins, who loses, and all you need to know about the Cook government’s last budget before heading to the election.

The 2024 WA Budget: What You Need To Know

Who wins, who loses, and all you need to know about the Cook government’s last budget before heading to the election.
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The Western Australian budget has drawn national attention. 

Some of that attention is the positive and slightly envious sort, thanks to a bunch of cost of living support and the posting of a sixth consecutive surplus.

But eyebrows are being raised over infrastructure blowouts when it comes to Metronet, the rate of spending in a high inflation environment and the failure to deliver for cohorts like small businesses and farmers.

The state of the books

WA posted a surplus of more than $3bn thanks to the good old GST, some higher-than-expected migration figures, and iron ore prices.

Yes, the price of iron ore is lower than when Labor last handed down a budget, but it hasn’t dived at the rate we were expecting and is sitting at more than $100.00 per tonne rather than dropping into the range of $60.00 to $70.00 per tonne.

The budget will stay in the black all the way through the forward estimates, though debt is rising to reach $41bn in 2027.

Cost of living relief for all

Did someone say cash handout? With an election around the corner, the government has invested big in the hopes you’ll really feel the difference in your hip pocket.

Thanks to a nearly $800m funding injection, there will be a $400.00 energy credit for all households and 90,000 small businesses that will be split into two $200.00 payments in July and December.

And for people with kids, you’re also looking at a payment of $250.00 per high school child and $150.00 per primary school child. 

Housing

We’ve all heard of the housing crisis and Labor has tried to show that it’s listening. 

The budget delivered more than $1bn in support for housing and homelessness measures.

One of these will go to lifting the threshold for the stamp duty exemption from houses worth $430,000 or less to houses worth $450,000 less.

This will shake out to save home buyers about $15,000 in stamp duty for eligible properties.

Thresholds for first home-buyer stamp duty concessions will also be lifted from $530,000 to $600,000 and owners of vacant homes will be given $5,000 if they make the property available to the long-term rental market. 

The government also extended a scheme giving owners of Airbnb and other short-stay accommodation $10,000 to convert them to long-term rentals.

More than $800m will go towards boosting social housing by 5,000 properties. 

Health investment 

More than $3bn is being spent on health, $1.2bn of which is a continuation of funding for state-run public hospital services.

Over $150m will be spent on emergency department access and long-stay patient care, while more than $400m will be spent on upgrading regional healthcare services in the Kimberley.

There’s also $240m for mental health, $40m of which goes right into crisis care. 

Education

Nearly $90m will be invested to set up three new primary schools, but with locations yet to be decided, and $410m into upgrading existing school facilities.

Labor will also pump more than $220m into increasing support for students with disabilities and $10m into boosting funding for the School of Isolated and Distance Education.

Diversifying the economy 

In an effort to stop the economy from relying on iron ore, iron ore and – you guessed it – more iron ore, the government invested money into other sectors.

There will be $500m put towards a New Industries Fund aimed at fast-tracking major industrial projects and clean energy. 

In essence, the government will unlock a bunch of land for industrial projects, including in Kwinana and Rockingham, along with the Goldfields and the South West.

Building and construction apprentices are also being incentivised to keep at it with a $1,000 handout and $1,000 tool and safety equipment allowances at both the start and end of their training.

To help out the Perth tourism sector and regional travellers, Labor invested $64m into the Regional Airfare Zone Cap Scheme, which caps the cost of airfares for regional residents at $299.00 on return flights to Perth for personal reasons. 

So what’s the downside?

The downside of all this cash splashing is two-fold.

One: it’s inflationary. The more money you give people, the more they spend.

And recent figures have shown inflation is stickier than we were hoping. In other words, we have to watch out with our spending if we’re going to tackle it.

The second downside is when it comes to cost of living relief, measures like the $400.00 energy rebate won’t make a huge difference especially as electricity is due to rise by $46.00, water by $45.00 and car registration by $25.00.

So while some cash is definitely welcome, the question remains “won’t it just get eaten up as prices rise?”

The government is also being grilled on whether these “sugar hits” are purely intended to be bright-shiny election winners. 

Who are the losers? 

In short, small businesses, community services, and farmers aren’t happy.

Small to medium businesses were really hoping for meaningful changes like reforms to payroll tax.

Farmers are absolutely struggling under the dry start to 2024, but all that has been announced is less than $9m in drought relief, $4m of which is available through low-interest loans. 

Indexation for funding of community services was not lifted, and as Australia reels from the impact of domestic violence, advocates blasted an $18m spend to bolster services as a fifth of what was required.