The prime minister may have showed he is out of touch with West Australian people after he claimed the media was living in a “parallel universe” over the issue of the GST revenue carve-up, analysts say.
Malcolm Turnbull spent most of last week in WA but brought little to woo voters in terms of infrastructure funding announcements or a resolution to the GST problem.
WA receives the lowest share of GST revenue and the state government last week urged Canberra to intervene over new census figures downgrading WA’s population, which it says could lead to another $1.9 billion hit.
Mr Turnbull skirted around GST questions but raised eyebrows when he claimed he had received a warm welcome to WA, which he said was contrary to media reports that people were “angry” and “wished” he would stay away.
“It is a complete parallel universe between what the media are saying and what people I’m meeting in the real world are saying to me,” Mr Turnbull told ABC radio.
Political analyst Harry Phillips said the prime minister seemed to be covering up a problem he did not have a solution to yet.
“I was quite amazed by his statement,” he told AAP on Sunday.
“He’s usually quite good in his public statements … but on that one, I think he was just completely off the beat.”
Prof Phillips said the GST was a “coffee table” topic in WA that was a big concern and broadly discussed, even if people did not fully understand the carve-up system.
Analyst John Phillimore agreed on the GST significance and said there otherwise would not be a Productivity Commission inquiry into it.
“Clearly it’s a bigger issue than just the media. But also, what else is he going to say, to some extent (about the warm welcome)?
“It is clearly an issue in most people’s minds and has been for some time.”
Prof Phillimore said the prime minister was “shepherded to the right people” when he was in the community, so it was no surprise he felt positive about his visit.
Analyst David Black said Mr Turnbull’s visit was as successful as expected, but there could be ramifications once the WA budget is handed down on September 7 and the extent of the financial mess is revealed.
“The fact is that there is a real issue here and there is a federal election in sight,” he said.
“WA is a state that makes a difference.”
A recent Galaxy poll suggested four Liberal-held seats in WA could be in trouble.
But Prof Black also noted WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt had a tricky job of selling the state budget.
“From Mr Turnbull’s point of view, while WA deals with its problems it might make it easier from his side,” he said.
The prime minister, whose last visit to WA was in February, promised to return several more times this year.