WA asset sales key to future projects

The State Government’s planned $5 billion infrastructure fund could be the cash cow for Perth’s light rail but only if Premier Colin Barnett can win over the Nationals to privatise key assets.

The West Australian can reveal that the fund, which would get its money from the sale of Western Power and Horizon Power’s trans-mission assets, will eventually be run down as the Government uses up both its interest and capital to finance projects.

The fund was a centrepiece of the Budget despite doubts over whether the Government would be able to privatise key assets. Of $16 billion expected to be raised from sales, $5 billion is earmarked for the infrastructure fund.

This is in addition to the existing Future Fund that is being fed money from mining royalties. It currently has $1.1 billion but will not be touched until 2032, when it is expected to have $3.5 billion.

Treasurer Mike Nahan said the fund could be the answer to some of the State’s most pressing infrastructure needs, with money to go into “predominately new” projects rather than those already budgeted for.

“This is a real game changer as it will allow the Government to fund future capital expenditure,” he said. “The fund will provide a ready source of non-debt funding for essential infrastructure, which may include new public transport infrastructure, new roads, new schools and other economic and social infrastructure to facilitate the continued growth of WA.”

Dr Nahan said any projects financed by the fund would be subject to individual business cases and State Cabinet decisions.

No date on when the fund might be fully run down has been set, with it largely to be determined by the projects ultimately financed.

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