Handing more responsibility for health and education funding to the states could be a ploy to get them to push for GST reform, the WA premier says.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett says the federal government’s plan to shift more responsibility to the states for education and health funding might be a ploy to get them to push for changes to the GST.

Mr Barnett also played down criticism of the funding changes, saying they were four to five years away and “brave” measures that had to be taken to reduce the national deficit.

“No sense of panic is required but the states will need to come to some sort of agreement with the Commonwealth,” Mr Barnett told reporters on Wednesday.

He said the planned changes “may have” been a tactic by the federal government to make the states push for GST reform.

“But you require the agreement of all states and territories to change the rate of tax of GST or to change exemptions – for example, should food be allowed.

“But it is the Commonwealth that determines the distribution of GST so that can be addressed.”

Mr Barnett indicated he would be a tough negotiator for WA, which was getting less from the GST carve-up.

He said he didn’t support West Australians paying more of the tax but changes should be “seriously” looked at.

Regarding Queensland Premier Campbell Newman’s call for an emergency Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, Mr Barnett said a meeting would be held in the second half of the year and that was soon enough.

The changes hadn’t been raised at the previous COAG meeting, he said.

The Liberal leader also brushed off accusations by the WA opposition that he was being soft on his federal colleagues.

“I don’t really care what Mark McGowan says,” Mr Barnett said.

“You’ll remember on some of the hospital funding, for example, every premier in Australia agreed to give up one third of their GST to fund a Commonwealth promise.

“The only reason it didn’t happen was one Liberal premier in Western Australia said no.”