The government of Western Australia has announced it will spend $ 1.2 billion to prepare the state’s healthcare system for the onset of COVID cases when state borders reopen on February 5 .
Funding will go to hospital beds and additional staff, immunization and testing, and health infrastructure.
And all casual workers who must self-isolate while awaiting COVID test results will become eligible for “isolation payments” under a new $ 80 million program.
The cash madness was heralded during Thursday’s mid-year financial review, which will also see teachers and other officials in Western Australia receiving long-awaited pay raises as the state economy continues. to challenge the global pandemic.
The mid-year fiscal review was marked by an operating surplus of $ 2.4 billion this fiscal year, a slight decrease from the $ 2.8 billion forecast in the September budget due to a decrease higher than expected the price of iron ore.
This is expected to be offset by a planned increase of $ 1.7 billion in income from transfer rights and payroll taxes, which will keep finances in the dark for the next four years.
With state borders mostly closed throughout the pandemic, Washington state’s economy is expected to grow 3.5% this fiscal year – the strongest growth in eight years.
Unemployment is expected to remain below 4 percent over the next four years as the state grapples with severe labor shortages.
The McGowan government will spend $ 1.2 billion on a new public sector wage policy, having faced threats of industrial action from frustrated unions.
Teachers and civil servants
Teachers and other public servants have seen their annual salary increases capped at $ 1,000 for the past four years, with the government pressured to remove the cap after it ran up a whopping $ 5.6 billion surplus last year .
Under the new policy, eligible unions will be offered a 2.5 percent annual salary increase with the option of a $ 1,000 signing bonus or an additional 0.25 percent annual increase. for negotiated workforce reform measures.
The WA Public School Teachers Union had called for a four percent annual pay rise.
It comes amid warnings of potential staff shortages early next year, when teachers will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
âOur finances remain the strongest in the country, with forecasted operating surpluses each year and the lowest debt trajectory of any jurisdiction,â said Premier and Treasurer Mark McGowan.
“The mid-year review uses our financial capacity to make new investments as we prepare to move through border restrictions when we reach our 90% immunization rate in early 2022.”
“A sleight of hand”
Opposition Treasury spokesman Steve Thomas said the government was looking at a forecast surplus of an unprecedented $ 16 billion.
âThe McGowan government should thank the current iron ore boom and the new GST deal introduced by the coalition federal government,â said Dr. Thomas.
âTo suggest that their financial management is responsible for this outcome is a ridiculous sleight of hand and should not be left unchallenged. “