THE federal government will cut a separate GST revenue deal with every state and territory other than Western Australia, if necessary, to secure its health and hospitals reform package after the mining state held out against signing a deal yesterday.The West Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, the only Liberal leader, refused Mr Rudd’s key demand to surrender 30 per cent of his GST revenue to fund the reforms, which would make the Commonwealth the dominant funder of health and hospital services.NSW and Victoria, which had also been holding out over the GST, dropped their opposition after Mr Rudd threw more money on the table, taking it to $5.4 billion in inducements for the states and territories over the next four years.Starting from July 1, the $5.4 billion includes funds for 1300 sub-acute beds, 2500 aged-care beds, mental health including access to mental health services for 20,000 young people, elective surgery and emergency departments to reduce waiting times to four hours.The money will be found through cuts in costs in the budget on May 11.The NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally, walked away with $1.7 billion.In a significant concession, Mr Rudd agreed that each state could establish its own funding pool. Into this, the Commonwealth would put its 60 per cent of health funding and each state would contribute 40 per cent.The state would then be responsible for disbursing the money to the new local hospital networks which will administer the hospitals day to day. Hospitals will be paid for each service provided with an ”efficient price” set by an independent regulator.Ms Keneally dropped her objection to surrendering 30 per cent of GST revenue after getting everything else she had asked for. Ms Keneally, who will hold a cabinet meeting today to discuss the package, said she had not capitulated on the GST. ”We came here to negotiate. I never said it was my way or the highway,” she said.By mid-afternoon, the Victorian Premier, John Brumby, whose opposition was more entrenched, crumbled after Mr Rudd offered another $800 million for beds and agreed to the pool system Ms Keneally had negotiated.But Mr Barnett held firm. He did not object to the health reforms but refused to hand over his GST. He said he was willing to put the revenue into a health pool rather than have the Commonwealth do it for him.”The Commonwealth essentially taking one-third of the total GST pool is not acceptable to me and it is not acceptable to WA,” he said.Unless Mr Barnett signs up by July 1, WA could be excluded from the deal and lose the $552 million in extra funding that it won.Mr Rudd said he did not feel it was worth penalising West Australians over an accountancy issue. ”I’m really confident that Colin and I will find a way through this,” he said.Mr Rudd dropped his threat of a referendum, saying that with seven of the eight jurisdictions agreeing, it would not be necessary.Should Mr Barnett hold firm, Mr Rudd said the federal government had legal advice that it was ”perfectly valid” to draft a new GST agreement with the seven states and territories which supported the health plan and another with WA. ”There is no suggestion that WA would undermine the health outcomes for the rest of Australia,”’ he said.But separate agreements would require federal legislation, meaning the Senate would be involved.The independent senator Nick Xenophon said he had an open mind and would need more detail, while Family First’s Steve Fielding said he wanted a full briefing from the Prime Minister before considering what he would do.The opposition would not comment on what it might do in the Senate but condemned the health plan yesterday as a failure of policy and a new layer of bureaucracy.”It’s a plan for a bigger bureaucracy – not better hospitals,” said the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott.Mr Barnett indicated he could scupper the entire deal by suggesting one state’s holding out would prevent the government altering the intergovernmental agreement that governs the distribution of GST revenue.”I would think you’d need every state and territory to sign up to the deal,” he said.Mr Barnett said the only solution was for Mr Rudd to bow to WA. He claimed his state was already disadvantaged by the formula that distributes the GST.
Nanjing Night Net