Thank you WA for all you have done to keep Australia going
This is a thank you note to the workers and industries of Western Australia.
Because without you, Australia’s recession would have been worse and our recovery would be so much weaker.
Despite the global turmoil of the pandemic, you and your economy have been remarkably resilient.
You’ve produced over $292 billion in output in the 2019-20 financial year – that’s over $5 billion a week. You were the only mainland state to avoid recession when many advanced economies saw double-digit falls.
Australia’s economy shrank by 0.3 per cent, but without you it would have fallen even further by 0.6 per cent.
Your contribution to the nation’s economy is almost double the size of your share of Australia’s population. And Western Australia accounted for 51% of Australia’s goods exports in the 2020 calendar year.
Despite being separated from friends and loved ones on the East Coast, WA’s mining families have dug deep to shore up Australia’s prosperity.
Helped by record high iron ore prices, the resources sector grew last year by 4.9 per cent, employed more than 140,000 Western Australians, and invested $27 billion in new capital.
I know those gains have been hard-earned and I’m grateful for your significant sacrifices which have made that growth possible and benefited every Australian.
Which is one reason why Labor backs WA keeping your fair share of the GST.
Resources is a big part of your success story, but it’s not the whole story.
Premier Mark McGowan’s strong leadership has saved lives and livelihoods.
Thanks to temporary and effective stimulus measures, your retail sector has enjoyed increased turnover since mid-last year.
Western Australians have supported their mates and neighbours whose businesses have been hurting from the necessary international border closure.
The public and private sectors have worked together as a shining example of why a strong public health response is also the best economic response.
All of the difficult sacrifices you’ve made to limit the spread of the virus mean that your economy will continue to play a leading role in the national recovery, especially with the East Coast in and out of lockdowns because of Scott Morrison’s failures on vaccines and fit-for-purpose quarantine.
The New South Wales lockdowns are a direct consequence of those failures and they are costing Australians around $700 million a week in lost activity.
We’ll keep paying the price for one of the world’s slowest vaccine rollouts because the longer it takes to get vaccines into Western Australian arms, the more lockdowns there’ll be, and the longer it will take to reopen Australia’s borders.
In the first half of this year, WA’s international student enrolments almost halved.
Tourism, which had previously accounted for 5 per cent of the state’s employment, plunged by 31 per cent in 2020. This meant a loss of $3.4 billion spent in the WA economy compared to 2019 tourist spending levels.
Even with your best efforts, we can’t have a first-rate economic recovery with a third-rate vaccine rollout.
That’s worth remembering when the Prime Minister and federal Treasurer inevitably look to you in the West to help dig them out of this mess of their own making, and their own complacency.
Even after all that you’ve done to help already, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have refused adequate supports for Western Australian workers forced into lockdown.
Scott Morrison didn’t think the pandemic was a race.
Thankfully for him - and for every other Australian - Western Australians knew better.
While the recovery could and should be so much better, federal Labor knows it would have been much worse without you.
And for that Western Australia, we’re grateful.
This opinion piece was first published in the West Australian