PLATFORM & POLICIES
WAxit Party – Election Campaign Platform
What are the drivers of the WAxit Party’s platform?
WAxit is a new political party formed to contest the Western Australian State Election on the 13th of March 2021.
The WAxit Party has come about through a merger of the Small Business Party and the WA Republic Party. The objective of the WAxit Party is to improve the fortunes of Western Australia citizens, business and industry by achieving autonomy and independence through secession from the Federation.
The WAxit Party believes there is a groundswell of support for this to happen as Western Australia has suffered since Federation. Western Australians have become increasingly aware that we are losing out badly because, as a junior partner in the current Federation, we are being squeezed from both ends: revenues are being excessively siphoned from the State, and we are not receiving our fair share in return.
Public support for Western Australian secession has been tested previously. In 1933, the Case for Secession emphasised that the disabilities of Western Australia could only be effectively resolved through secession because there was too great a divergence between the economic interests of Western Australia and those of the eastern States. The federal structure in 1933 had institutionalised the economic disabilities of Western Australia.
The 1933 Referendum on Western Australia seceding from the Commonwealth of Australia was supported by 75% of the vote. Astonishingly, that lawful referendum – which had resulted in an overwhelming majority in support of secession - was disallowed by the British Parliament under British law.
The matter of secession was not pursued following a change in Government in spite of the incoming Labor Government having promised to do so. A Commonwealth Grants Commission was established after the referendum to address some of the grievances. However, not much has changed in the 90 years since then.
Much time has passed and it appears that the worm has turned once more. We are not just forgotten - we are often marginalised. The east coast-centric national government has always favoured the large voting population centres of the eastern seaboard. The WAxit platform is that Western Australia must go its own way. Western Australia cannot develop under federalism because we are too small, and we just don’t count.
Nothing has changed and nothing will change while we remain part of the Federation. It is a problem that will only get worse for us when we lose yet another seat in the House of Representatives in the next Federal Election. Federal elections are won and lost before voting even finishes in Western Australia.
The core of the problem at the local level is that the major parties in Western Australia are just small cogs in a big political wheel. The main concerns of both Liberal and Labor at a State level in Western Australia are the political prospects of their organisations at a national level.
The WAxit Party will change that.
Unlike the major parties, the WAxit Party has no need to toe a federal party line.
Western Australian government, business, and industry have often felt the ill effects of the megaphone diplomacy which emanates from the federal leadership in Canberra. Not to mention bullying from Premiers and Deputy Premiers of the larger states.
The WAxit Party will provide a real alternative for voters to support. Unlike the single-issue small parties, the WAxit Party’s policy is to broaden the economic basis of the State, which is currently too dependent on mining and agriculture. Western Australia needs greater freedom to develop business and industry to encourage a broader-based economy.
This will be achieved by using taxes and revenues generated in Western Australia for the benefit of Western Australian people, businesses, and industries without leakages to other jurisdictions.
The WAxit Party looks forward to bringing the prospects for a real improvement in the fortunes of Western Australians for the voters to consider in March.
What would an Independent WA look like financially?
The current State Budget papers include a figure that holds the key to modeling how WA would ‘pay its way’ as an independent nation. The paper states, “it is estimated that the Commonwealth will derive $56.8bn in revenue from WA”.
WA collects state taxes of approximately $21bn. In addition to this, Canberra provides a further $11bn in grant funding. However, if we were to stand alone as an independent nation, we would forgo this grant support. But if we add the abovementioned $57bn in federal tax derived in WA to our own $21bn collections, an indicative standalone tax take is about $78bn.
On the expenditure side, the WA Government spends $31bn on services such as police, health, and education. Included are large federal partnership programs in housing, non-government schools, roads, etc.
At first glance, this leaves a $47bn surplus. But we would need to replace the federal money transferred to everyday Western Australians. The data on the state by state allocation of federal expenditure is scant, but it is reasonable to rely on what is known as the ‘10% rule’. WA is 10.3% of the national population, so this method is reasonable for modeling purposes.
For example, the national spend on welfare and transfer payments (Pre-Covid) is approximately $160bn. WA would continue to fund and care for our pensioners, unemployed and disabled at a cost of $16bn (i.e.10%).
Similarly, the federal defence budget of around $38bn would yield a WA defence budget of $3.8bn. Today, the actual amount currently expended on defence in WA would be well below this amount, as the defence presence in Western Australia is very small. New Zealand, with the twice the population of WA, has a very good defence force, costing $3.9bn with 9,000 personnel. The ADF presence in Western Australia is nothing like that. For those wanting stronger defence in WA, a standalone WADF would be far more capable than what we have at present.
Waters and Rivers attract attention as another example. WA contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to national water infrastructure – mainly to the Murray-Darling River Basin. That’s a long way from WA’s borders. Wouldn’t it be better to spend our 10% or $320m on regional water resource management and assistance for our own stressed rivers and waterways? Eastern states politicians would never spend federal money rescuing the Swan or Blackwood river.
In summary using the ‘10% rule’ – an independent WA would need to spend $31bn to replace the slice of our current ‘Canberra spend’. From the $47bn we had in the kitty we now see a surplus of $16bn each year. These are the funds that will yield a social and economic dividend for a stand-alone Western Australia.
The first strategic benefit will be the ability to review and/or abolish a range of taxes such as Payroll Tax ($3.6bn) and Stamp Duty ($1.1bn). This would immensely support employers and homebuyers and eliminate an entire level of state regulation. The Medicare levy would no longer apply to income ($1.8bn). Capital Gains could be tax-free ($1.6bn). Abolishing FBT ($400m) would encourage FIFO workers and their families to reside in northwest towns as was originally planned, rather than commute from the south and be away from their families for extended periods.
The second strategic benefit is the multiplier effect from spending newly derived WA income locally. There would be an employment boost in every facet of society and the economy, kickstarting business and work opportunities for Western Australians in the cities and in the regions.
The final strategic benefit is the opportunity to use the remaining $7.5bn surpluses to retire debt or support infrastructure projects and to build up the regional areas.
The WAxit Party’s Vision for the Future
Industry and the Economy
Over the past 30 years, we have been stuck with successive Governments of both flavours who have presided over the progressive loss of industries and of diversified employment opportunities for Western Australians.
Western Australia has lost large industries including breweries, glass bottle manufacturers, and cardboard packaging manufacturers. Not to mention practically all of the recycling reprocessing operations. We have also lost high-tech manufacturers such as the manufacturing facility in Bentley which produced jet turbine fan blades for aircraft engines, and we are soon to lose the only oil refinery in the State when the BP Refinery at Kwinana closes in a few months.
Labor and the Coalition wring their hands and bow their heads at each of these losses, but they have no answers or suggestions to move forward. In many cases, these operations have been moved ‘back east’ or are replaced by eastern states-based suppliers.
Today Western Australia has a single-pillar economy, largely based on iron ore extraction. This is economically perilous; effectively “putting all our eggs into one basket”. What happens when the resource runs out or another provider can supply it more economically? Making this situation more perilous is relying on a single customer (China) that consumes over 80% of our iron ore exports. This one customer also has often weaponised its trading primacy to achieve its goals: providing little assurances of a secure trading future.
In recent times there has been a change in the China/Australia relationship. It is not a good change - which creates concerns for our future well-being.
82% of our iron ore exports went to China in 2019 (up by 1.5% on 2018 to 681 million tonnes). Iron ore provides over 80% of the State’s royalty receipts and 50% of the direct employment in the minerals sector. This represents a dangerous over-reliance on a single commodity and a single buyer.
Western Australia has few significant industries beyond mining and agriculture, and there is little evidence of other development. We cannot and should not continue to rely on export our natural mineral and agricultural resources in totally unprocessed form and sold at the lowest price. We must look to add value to these products and to find new markets. Previous State Governments have done little in this regard since the 1960’s, but the WAxit Party will make it a priority.
The WAxit Party wants to see value-adding to regional mineral resources and primary products occur in regional towns and cities to stimulate population growth, create sustainable employment and economic activities, and enable social development in these communities.
The WAxit Party believes it will provide a real alternative for voters to support. We are asking voters to think differently this time.
Investment in Infrastructure
Western Australia is the driest state in the driest continent on earth. The evidence is clear that climate is changing, and this will have a dramatic impact on how and where we can live and what we can produce. A critical outcome is an impact on water resources for human consumption, industry, and agriculture.
The WAxit Party will not get into any philosophical debate about what causes climate change and what we can do to stop or reverse the process. It is too late for that. For Western Australia, the simple facts are that the south of the State will get hotter and drier and the north, hotter and wetter as a result of climate change which is impacting already.
In the Perth Metropolitan Area, we are already relying on desalination of seawater and recycled sewage is being used to replenish drinking water resources. The pressure in water mains has been reduced to limit volume and flow. In the southern parts of the State, many previously vibrant small towns that once had reliable and adequate water supplies are already in crisis. In many places, water has to be carted to meet domestic needs.
The WAxit Party’s vision for the future of water security in Western Australia is to harvest some of the massive amounts of rainfall received in the Kimberly each wet season.
Initially, the proposal is to pipe water from the Ord River Dam south and reticulate it to various parts of the State for domestic water supply and provide water for industry and agriculture needs along the pipeline route. This is not a new idea, but one that gets poo-pooed by the major parties on the basis of out-of-date information. They always refer to a 2006 report that concluded the idea was unrealistic on the basis of cost; the need to preserve quantities of water for hydroelectric power; the high evaporation rate and the carbon produced by the need to pump the water long distances. Let’s have a quick look at these arguments:
Cost: - Yes – the cost will be significant, but this needs to be considered in relation to the cost of alternatives such as increasing desalination, more water carting, and the opportunity cost of not having enough water for towns, industry, and agriculture to allow for an expansion of economic activity. There is also the immediate economic stimulus effect arising from undertaking a large infrastructure project in remote areas.
The need to preserve quantities of water for hydroelectric power: Hydroelectric power generation at the Ord Dam is very inefficient because the height difference between the water level and the generator turbines is not great. Rather than water pressure, the system, therefore, relies on volume flow, meaning much more water is required to generate a given amount of electrical power.
Improvements in the efficiency and cost of solar electrical power generation that have occurred since the hydroelectric power system was conceived mean that much of the power produced by hydro could be replaced by solar, and thereby reduce the need for water. The water would then be available for other purposes. The hydro system could remain in place to generate power when solar is not available.
High evaporation rate: There is a high evaporation rate, but this will be more than offset by the increasing rainfall from climate change and reducing the amount of water lost to hydroelectric power generation. Previous proposals also considered moving the water south in open channels through hot, dry areas of the State. This would result in huge losses to evaporation. The WAxit Party proposal is to run the water through a pipeline, ensuring that evaporation losses will be minimal.
Carbon increase from pumping: The previous proposal was based on using petroleum-fueled pumping systems. There have been significant improvements in solar technology since 2006. It makes no sense to use petroleum-fueled pumping stations along the pipeline route when solar electric pumping stations are now the obvious choice.
It will never be cheaper to do this project than now. Western Australia must commit to using our Kimberly water resources for our own needs, and we must do so before the national water initiatives start looking at the resource and use federal funding to direct the water eastwards.
We also need to preserve potential future water resources in the Kimberly region by avoiding the creation of new national parks that would quarantine suitable rivers for future water reservoirs, such as the Fitzroy River.
Western Australia is highly dependent on road transport and petroleum fuels. However, the rest of the world is turning away from petroleum fuels and some are even committed to total bans on petroleum-fueled vehicles by the year 2050 or before. Western Australia is not ready for that eventuality. Electric passenger cars already available are a practical (although expensive) alternative to motor cars. But how will we replace diesel trucks and road trains needed for heavy transport and long-distance haulage when the rest of the world stops making them? A major first step under WAxit will be investment in railways and ports.
The rail network already in place in country regions needs to be upgraded to carry larger loads at higher speeds. Passenger rail services should be provided to major towns along the rail routes. Eventually, the whole rail network needs to be electrified. Regional ports need to be upgraded to facilitate export of goods and agricultural products and coastal shipping services encouraged.
State Ownership of Public Assets
Public assets will continue to be owned by the State. Where there are natural monopolies in the provision of public goods, it makes no sense to sell public assets to the private sector for a small one-off benefit and then have the public or industry consumers pay whatever price that the new owner will demand on an ongoing basis.
There also will be no toll roads under WAxit. Road networks and the land they stand on are a public good mostly paid for by public money and fuel taxes. They will not be sold off cheap to corporate owners who can charge for their use forever after.
The WAxit Party’s vision is that Western Australia should become a world leader in the development of renewable energy. The State has more than enough sunshine and wind. But we should also become efficient producers of the equipment and infrastructure needed to harness and store the energy. Fortunately, we also have all of the necessary mineral resources and intellectual capacity to do this.
The WAxit Party will encourage initiatives which add value to our own mineral resources and use them to produce the high-tech infrastructure (wind and solar generators, batteries for storage, and control equipment) needed for this activity.
The WAxit Party wants all households to have solar systems, but recognises a problem many people have in accessing sustainable energy: those who need it most can least afford it. The WAxit Party in government will therefore develop an assistance program to support low-income families to obtain solar systems for their homes.
Western Australian jobs for Western Australian workers
The WAxit Party is determined that Western Australian jobs should be held by Western Australian workers. The Fly In/Fly Out (FIFO) model endemic in the mining sector has destroyed the possibility of creating or supporting communities in local areas. FIFO workers from eastern states or overseas contribute little to the local economy apart from the direct value of the work that they do. By taking their income out of Western Australia and supporting families and a lifestyle in other jurisdictions, they deprive the State’s economy of the multiplier benefits which flow from having workers and their families living, spending, being housed and growing up in Western Australia – preferably in communities local to their mine sites.
Mining companies which enjoy the privileges and profits of operating in Western Australia will need to employ Western Australians and provide the necessary training to ensure that the skills that are needed by the mining sector are readily available here.
Better relationships with overseas trading partners
The mining, fishing and agriculture industries on which Western Australia is so dependent have been devastated by the statements and actions of the Federal Government, resulting in our biggest trading partner cutting us off as a supplier.
The Federal Government’s view is that China is only 35% of the nation’s overseas market. But, in the case of Western Australia, China takes 80% of our exports. There are few opportunities to shift this trade to other markets in a short time frame.
An independent Western Australia will have a better opportunity to maintain better diplomatic relationships with our major trading partners.
Investment in Defence
A WA defence budget of $3.8bn would stimulate massive economic activity locally in providing defence materiel and supplies. Today, the actual amount currently expended on defence in WA would be well below this amount, as the defence presence in Western Australia is very small.
New Zealand, with twice the population of WA, has a very good defence force, costing $3.9bn with 9,000 personnel. The ADF presence in Western Australia is nothing like that. Having Western Australian industries and businesses provide facilities, services, consumables and equipment for our own military would massively stimulate the local economy and encourage investment in manufacture of goods and services for the military.
For those wanting a stronger defence presence in WA, a standalone WADF would also have greater capability than what we have at present.
Populate or Perish
The economic future of Western Australia is dependent on steady growth in the population.
Support families to have more children
The current low birth rate means that we are unable to maintain or increase our population. WAxit will implement policies to encourage families to have more children.
Immigration has always made a valuable contribution to society and the economy of Western Australia and will continue to be an important means of maintaining growth. However, we don’t just want workers to occupy low-paid labouring, agricultural, and service jobs. WAxit will therefore implement an immigration program that targets and supports ‘clever’ migrants who have the greatest potential to contribute to specific needs in various industry and service sectors and to live and work in various locations around the State where they are needed.
Invest in the Manufacturing Sector
The manufacturing sector has diminished under successive Liberal and Labor governments. As an independent country, Western Australia will be better placed to reverse this trend. We will not be tied in to arrangements which favour manufacturers in other States and we will be able to implement policies and assistance programs which favour local manufacturers.
In particular, the support for the manufacturing sector will encourage businesses which provide goods for the expanding minerals processing agricultural products processing sector as well as supplying the needs of an expanded military presence in Western Australia.
The WAxit Party in government will also develop programs of support for the high technology industry sector to ensure that Western Australia is at the forefront of technology improvement.
A Better Deal for Small Business
An independent Western Australia will allow for reductions in many taxes. This is good news for small business. The WAxit Party will also work for a better deal for small businesses. The removal of red tape is something often promised by the major political parties, but never delivered.
In the past, some small businesses have been adversely effected by the failure of governments to adequately control regulated businesses. Unlicensed operators have been allowed to establish in competition with licensed operators who have invested significant funds into their businesses. This has the effect of wiping out the value of these legitimate businesses. Past and current governments have been unable or unwilling to do anything about this. The WAxit Party believes it is time for effected small businesses to receive adequate compensation for their losses.
Mental health is a big problem that is not being adequately addressed by the major parties. As an example of the extent of the need, the suicide rate is twice the rate of deaths in road accidents. Yet look at the difference in expenditure on road safety compared with expenditure on mental health. The mental health situation for the indigenous community is even worse than that for the broader community.
The WAxit Party will call for a Parliamentary Review and reform of mental health.
The need for more of our people to undertake higher education has never been more pressing. However, the cost of higher education prevents many people from pursuing higher education or training for changing workplaces and the economy. Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) fees are a financial burden that many people have to carry for years after they have completed their studies, which may impact their ability to obtain loans in the future to purchase a home or invest in a business.
The WAxit Party in government will pursue initiatives that will remove or reduce the cost of achieving higher education.
More Effective Police Force
Each election, all of the major parties address community concerns about law and order by promising 1,200 more police. More police is not the only solution to the problem.
The WAxit Party knows that the root cause of much of the crime currently afflicting Western Australian society is the drug epidemic – in particular amphetamines.
The major focus of the WAxit Party’s policy on law and order will be to work with the Police to identify the resources that are needed to deal with and eradicate this problem.