Solar Cuts, Paid Parking and the Liberal Party’s budget

The Liberal Party of Western Australia are misusing the West Australian government’s budget in many ways. I only want to focus on 3 of them for now.

  1. Solar Cuts – Solar feed-in rebate to be slashed in half, despite 10 year contracts.
  2. Paid Parking – Free parking at train stations to be abolished as of July 1, 2014.
  3. Wasteful Spending – $20bn+ on Elizabeth Quay and $1bn+ on sports stadium.

One of the most controversial decision in the August 8 state budget are the “Solar Cuts” (see #SolarCuts). These will see the solar energy feed-in tariff literally halved, despite electricity prices having risen by more than 70% in recent years.

Existing customers currently receive 40c per unit sold, this will be reduced to 20c.

Most of these 70,000+ customers have signed on to 10 year contracts, with the government, at the original price. Government attempts to do a similar thing in Britain was foiled by the High Court, and legal action against the tariff cuts here also look likely to happen. There’s already a petition with over 700 signatures opposing ‘Solar Cuts’.

Similarly unpopular are plans to force public transport users to pay for parking at ALL train stations across Perth. As someone for whom train is the preferred method of transport, I find this ridiculous. Even if parking fees are kept to a low $2/day that will increase my weekly transport costs by 25%.

Plus we all know it would very quickly become $5-6/day. Parking at Perth City Station cost me $14 for under 4 hours on Saturday. And for what? So the government can look like it’s ‘making tough decisions’ to ‘balance the budget’?

Mean while, Perth’s roads have major congestion issues and the only long-term solution is a much greater uptake of public transport. Our public transport networks need to be more accessible, with improved connectivity through new buses and quality light rail networks. We also need to improve parking facilities and station guards at every station.

I personally believe major stations with the space to do, so such as Armadale, Kelmscott and Cannington ought to have multi-storey secure car-parks built. I wouldn’t mind paying to park there, especially when coming home at night. But it also shouldn’t replace the free parking.

We all need that one for when we have no change, or when the paid section is already full. Or when we are struggling as students or in-between jobs.

Public transport is an essential public service and we SHOULD be making it cheaper. I personally believe we should move away from the user-pays model for public transport altogether. This has nothing to do with debt. This is a values issue.

The state government is committed to spending $20bn+ on a fancy foreshore development which will provide no productivity bonus to the state. They are also spending more than $1bn on a sports stadium, which will also provide no productivity bonus.

There are a three very concerning things these projects have in common:

  1. Extraordinarily high costs.
  2. Inappropriate locations.
  3. Direct transfer of public assets to the private sector.

This is absolutely in line with the Liberal Party’s agenda of downsizing government and reducing regulation. After all they represent the elite class who, through the sheer weight of their financial resources, will always come out on top in an under-regulated capitalist system. It is the role of a democratic government to find the balance between encouraging markets for trade and regulating them to prevent the exploitation of civilians.

While the Elizabeth Quay development will provide a very nice location for the rich businessmen on St George’s Tce to take dignitaries when they come to Perth, if prices are remotely similar to those in the cafe’s in the surrounding area, Elizabeth Quay will be prohibitively expensive for parents seeking fun family time in the CBD.

So why exactly are we committing $20bn to this development, if we don’t have money to allow people to continue parking in the dirt next to Kelmscott train station without charging them? If we can’t afford to continue paying a fair price for peoples home-generated solar electricity? If we can afford to finish the job while constructing the new children’s hospital and provide an additional 100 new beds, instead of just 24?

Clearly the Liberal Government of Western Australia believe it is in their best interest to build these projects. Meanwhile, they hide the fact all 9 new high-rise buildings to be built on the former Esplanade park land will be privatised. They also deny any wrong-doing over the state government’s handing over of a patch of land to Crown Casino (James Packer) for under half of it’s value as part of the stadium negotiations.

Similarly, why is the new sports stadium going in that location? There is no access to parking and even a brand new train station will struggle to keep up with the load. After all the Armadale train line still hasn’t been upgraded to take the new full-length trains. On top of which, isn’t it a little inappropriate to link the biggest sports facility in the state directly to the only casino?

We’ve already got a problem with sports gambling in Australia, lets not make it worse.

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