Mr Wilson (4:12pm) — Western Australia has made and continues to make a distinctive contribution to our Commonwealth. I've said before, like my Labor colleagues from the west, I'm not an arch parochialist; I'm a proud Western Australian. It doesn't mean I underrate or undervalue any part of Australia. It does mean, as a representative from WA, that I'll speak up for my state and I'll argue for the proper recognition of WA's contribution to the Commonwealth and a fair and proportional response to the WA's needs.
The reality is, in the current climate under this government, the Abbott-Turnbull government, that you have to call out the ignorance and the neglect and the complacency of their approach to Western Australia. We contribute to the life of this nation in ways that span the full range of social and economic activity, and my colleagues today have described in compelling detail our state's special characters and qualities, our industries and entrepreneurs, our environment, our cultural and social diversity and strength, and I want to outline some of those aspects of Western Australian life too, but I do want to mention today the particular contribution that Western Australian women have made to political life in this country.
Edith Cowan was the first woman to serve in any Australian parliament. Dame Dorothy Tangney was the first woman to serve in this, the national, parliament when she served in the other place as a senator. Dr Carmen Lawrence was the first woman to serve as a Premier and, indeed, as a treasurer of a state government. The member for Curtin is the first woman to serve as foreign minister. I take this opportunity to remember and pay tribute to former Senator Pat Giles who passed away last month. She passed away on 9 August. She was a lion of the labour movement. She was an unstinting advocate for women in leadership, and the first woman to chair the Senate privileges committee.
Unfortunately, notwithstanding the great contribution of Western Australian women, WA experiences the highest gender pay gap in this country. And at a time of record and rising inequality in Australia as a whole, inequality is the worst in Western Australia. That's what you get from the double whammy of nine years of a Barnett state government and four years of the Abbott-Turnbull federal government. It's now the case in WA that the wealthiest 20 per cent of households get 44 per cent of all state income, the highest on record. The bottom 20 per cent, the lowest quartile, gets seven per cent of all state income, the lowest on record. And the shares of all three quartiles in between have fallen over the last decade. When you throw in the fact that WA is in deep recession and is experiencing high unemployment and record underemployment, you begin to understand the impact of this government's policies on the state of Western Australia. That's why the disparity between what WA contributes and the support it receives hurts us so much.
We account for 42 per cent of Australia's merchandise exports—15 per cent of the economy as a whole. We're a third of the land mass and 11 per cent of the population. We're apparently due 50 per cent of all shipbuilding, because that's what the Western Australian Liberals take out full-page ads in The West Australian to tell us. But, while the maths on the other side isn't so good, the reality is we're getting $3.5 billion out of $89 billion. That is less than four per cent. We're getting 3.8 per cent of road and bridge projects. We are getting zero per cent of regional jobs and investment, and we get 3.7 per cent of the GST. We contribute 15 per cent of the Australian economy, and we get 3.7 per cent of the GST, at 34 cents in the dollar. We get nine per cent of Australia Council funding and 5.4 per cent of Catalyst funding. We basically get hurt and dudded by this federal coalition government at every turn.
There's only one measure by which we get more than our fair share, much more, and that's in the form of Liberal representatives in this place. We get 11 out of 16 representatives in this place from the Liberal Party. That's 69 per cent. They want to put a floor under that! That's what they're working on—they want to put a ratcheting floor under that. There's no action on the GST, no dollar figure. The Prime Minister comes once every 12 months to say he's thinking about it and he wants to fix it, but there's no action—there's no floor; there's no dollar figure contribution. There's just this parade of Liberal representatives from Western Australia, flying over here and giving us nothing.
But the people in WA are cottoning on to this government. They know there's a solution. It doesn't involve rushing off the cliff like a pack of lemmings. It doesn't involve seceding from the Commonwealth or abolishing the minimum wage or halving foreign aid, or all of the other brilliant ideas that come out of the conference. It involves changing the government and electing a Shorten Labor government.