Federal Government plans to inject $100 million into a national electricity grid based on the Snowy Mountains Scheme did not adequately take into account the special needs of Western Australia, Fuel and Energy Minister Geoff Gallop said today.
"The taxpayers of Western Australia should not be expected to contribute to an injection of funds into a national electricity grid from which they would benefit only indirectly," Dr Gallop said.
Dr Gallop's comments followed a meeting in Canberra today of State and Federal representatives to discuss the national electricity strategy.
"Western Australia supports the general thrust of the national electricity strategy, which aims to improve efficiency in electricity generation through corporatisation, competition and the sharing of facilities. A common electricity grid for the Eastern States is an obvious part of that process and should be supported," the Minister said.
"However, we want equitable treatment and recognition that Western Australia is a key player in the country's economy.
"The Federal Government's position ignores the fact that Western Australia has the lion's share of the nation's resources and is as important to the nation's economic well-being as the Eastern States.
"It is essential both for Western Australia and for the nation that secondary processing industries be established to add value to Western Australia's national resources."
Dr Gallop said he had told Federal Resources Minister Alan Griffiths that Federal funds should be made available to support secondary processing industry development in Western Australia in a way which at least matched the proposed injection of funds into the eastern electricity grid.
"The Federal Government needs to take a broader national perspective," he said.
"Before injecting $100 million into a scheme which is arguably being propped up by the taxpayers of the smaller States, the Federal Government should consider equitable treatment for those States."
Dr Gallop said commentators had noted that New South Wales and Victoria took about $300 million of electricity from the Snowy Mountains Scheme but paid only about half that amount.
"In fact when the entire project is considered, it has been argued that New South Wales and Victoria are receiving a hidden benefit of $300-400 million a year," he said.
There were a number of ways the Federal Government could assist Western Australia.
These included direct grants, taking equity in new industry or in the local energy industry, or by lifting the diesel and fuel oil excise duty burdens which apply to SECWA power generation in remote areas.