Those of us in the eastern States have been subsidising WA for years, which makes their parochial “when are we going to get our fair share” whinging about a mining tax particularly hard to swallow. Formerly Perth-based Matt Cowgill points out the history:
WA has spent most of federation living off transfers from the more populous states. Lang Hancock didn’t discover iron ore until 1952, and then he spent twenty years trying to get the West Australian iron ore and steel industries off the ground. Then there was a long term decline in global commodities prices, reflected in our terms of trade, that meant that WA still received a slight subsidy.
Oh, come off it.
After breaking down the numbers, Matt concludes:
The point of this is to show that the WA economy is heavily cyclical, as it’s very dependent on the fortunes of the mining industry, which in turn are determined by the global prices for various commodities, which in turn are determined by global demand, which in turn is driven by the surging fortunes of China.
If things were to change and China were to falter then WA’s miracle economy may begin to appear a lot less miraculous. I suspect at that point we’d stop hearing from Paul Murray et al about West Australian exceptionalism and the need to receive a “fair share”, because the “less productive” States would once again be shovelling funds back across the Nullabor.
It’s a point the rest of us should keep in mind when observing the result in the west. If WA refuses to share the profits of the mining boom with the country that’s kept them going all this time, why should we bail them out next time they come begging?
UPDATE: And does the Liberal Party not realise that those of us in the eastern states have the internets nowadays and can see them bashing us in WA? Does it not occur to them that if they’re going to be a parochial anti-eastern states party, that we might not vote for them?