GST windfall should be used on Peel health | opinion

In the lead-up to the state budget, all across Western Australia, communities are making financial demands on the McGowan Government.

From small towns suffering from the axing of residential colleges, to the closure of small health services (such as the Peel Mobile Health Service), people are demanding answers.

But the government does have a simple answer.

The state budget is in a mess. It is labouring under record debt, massive deficits and – just like an out-of-control family budget – more money is going out the door than coming in.

The excuse for just about everything is “there’s just no money”.

This is the context in which our community is asking for more resources at our public hospital, the Peel Health Campus.

But this week, the state government found itself with an unexpected windfall.

Every year, the GST revenue hauled into federal coffers to carved up and handed out to the states.

This financial year, WA received 34.4 cents for every dollar we paid in GST. In the next financial year, we’ll be handed back 47.3 cents.

That’s an increase of about a billion dollars. Not exactly small change.

Although the government had planned for an increase in GST revenue, the exact amount is about $150 million more than expected.

When looking for where to spend that cash, it should be on Mandurah health.

It should be spent on out hospital. It should be spent on an upgrade of our region’s health services and facilities.

In 2012, the former operators of Peel Health Campus proposed a $75 million upgrade to the hospital.

This would have included a significant expansion of the Emergency Department (from 23 to 40 treatment bays), 33 new public beds, two new operating theatres and expanded parking.

But the proposal went nowhere.

The government now has the opportunity to do something and it has the money to do it. Even after it attempts to meet all of its election commitments, especially the multi-billion-dollar Perth Metronet public transport project.

The key target for this extra money should be our Peel hospital.

We only have to wait until the May budget to see if the government has listened.