Treasurer Joe Hockey’s contribution to the debate in the party room was “extraordinary”, according to one MP. Photo: Andrew Meares WA Liberal MP Christian Porter was involved in a row of GST revenue for Western Australia in the Coalition party room meeting. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Mr Hockey criticised Colin Barnett’s government during a row in the Coalition party room over GST revenue allocation. Photo: Aaron Bunch
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Treasurer Joe Hockey has rounded on Liberal Premier Colin Barnett in a partyroom stoush on the amount of GST revenue Western Australia receives.
And in a worrying sign for the Treasurer, who has been under pressure for his performance selling the budget, he was interjected upon by Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop and rebuked by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Sources told Fairfax Media the showdown was sparked when former WA state treasurer turned federal MP Christian Porter stood up to argue for a greater GST share for Western Australia. He was delegated to speak for his WA colleagues.
Mr Porter said that WA received an unfair and falling share of the GST and flagged that he would get every WA MP and Senator to author a submission to an upcoming review into the tax system.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott cautioned MPs against that approach and said politicians are decision makers and not stakeholders.
Mr Hockey was said to have taken a dim view of the complaint and chose to attack Mr Barnett instead, declaring that WA was the worst performing government in the Commonwealth when it came privatising infrastructure.
But in an official briefing of events, a government source played down reports Mr Hockey had attacked the WA government and said the joint partyroom meeting had been “calm as a millpond”.
Mr Hockey was instead said to have noted WA is moving towards privatisations that the federal government is pleased with.
According to MPs in the meeting that Fairfax Media spoke to, Ms Bishop, the party’s most senior WA federal representative, Foreign Minister, repeatedly interjected in an attempt to cool Mr Hockey down and calm the situation.
At that point Mr Abbott praised Premier Barnett and said he led a good government.
One MP in the room told Fairfax Media Mr Hockey’s contribution was “extraordinary”, another said he was clearly slapped down by Mr Abbott.
A third MP said: “Julie was trying to stop Joe … from a cabinet minister it was unusual and the PM tried to fix it up.”
Sources close to Mr Hockey insisted that he had not been “slapped down” by the Prime Minister.
They stressed that Mr Abbott had been more scathing of the idea of WA MPs putting in a submission to the review.
Towards the end of his contribution Mr Hockey attempted to smooth things over by pointing out that the WA government could access funding from the federal government’s asset recycling fund.
Speaking late Tuesday afternoon, Mr Hockey praised the West Australian government for “undertaking a number of reforms” including “selling a number of assets”.
“I understand where Western Australia is coming from in relation to the GST, I certainly do and that is something that is going to be very actively considered as part of the federation tax white papers,” said Mr Hockey.
But the Treasurer warned the Commonwealth had to govern for all the states and Australians.
“You can understand individual members and senators advocating for their state and that’s appropriate…we’ve got a duty to act on behalf of the whole country,” he said in Canberra.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten capitalised on the leaked comments during question time on Tuesday.
“I do note that the Prime Minister, according to Fairfax, had to slap the Treasurer down over GST anger. Hang in there Christian Porter, you’ll get a promotion eventually,” he told Parliament.
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