Monday, 22 February 2021
Private Members' Business
Perth Freight Link
That this House:
(1) notes that:
(a) the Perth Freight Link, announced by then Treasurer the Hon Joe Hockey in 2014, was comprehensively rejected by the people of Western Australia at the state election in March 2017, when it was the most prominent point of difference in terms of transport infrastructure policy between Liberal and Labor;
(b) in addition to a lack of any credible evidence to suggest it would improve road connectivity, the project which included the road reserves for Roe Highway Stage 8 and 9, did not actually reach the port of Fremantle, had no detailed planning or cost benefit analysis, was to be operated as a private toll road, and was designed to facilitate the privatisation of Fremantle Port;
(c) encouraged by federal Liberals, the Western Australian Government of the then Premier Barnett, ignored the advice of Main Roads Western Australia and in the shadow of an election wasted $20 million of taxpayers' funds in the pointless and bloody-minded smashing down of more than 100 hectares of fragile habitat, including hundred year-old heritage trees, in the Beeliar Wetlands;
(d) after the election, at the behest of the current Western Australian Government of Premier McGowan, $1.2 billion in federal funding that had been put aside for the so-called Perth Freight Link was redirected to a number of sensible and well-designed road, rail and public transport projects in the south-metro region, including the widening of the Kwinana Freeway and other freeway works, the new Armadale Road-North Lake Road bridge, the High Street Upgrade, and the Thomlie-Cockburn Metronet rail link; and
(e) the Commonwealth Government has since 2017, allocated a further $1.2 billion to fund what it describes as Roe 8/9, a project that no longer exists, while denying the people of Western Australia the much-needed funds to deliver properly planned transport infrastructure; and
(2) calls on the Government to:
(a) respect the wishes of the Western Australian public and the mandate of the Western Australian Government as clearly expressed at the election in March 2017;
(b) stop holding the people of Western Australia to ransom for a dead and discredited project; and
(c) work with the McGowan Labor Government if re-elected on 13 March 2021 to support jobs, business activity, transport infrastructure, and economic recovery as Western Australia seeks to emerge from the pandemic.
This motion is very simple. It's about fairness for Western Australia. It's about ensuring that WA is properly supported by the Morrison government as it seeks to emerge from the heavy impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's totally unacceptable that the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government continues to hold $1.2 billion of federal funding over the heads and out of the reach of the people of Western Australia for the sake of playing a silly political game. They've done that for four years, which is bad enough, and to continue holding WA to ransom for their own political vanity in future is simply ridiculous. To continue denying the people of WA the sensible use of those funds is the very definition of senselessness and selfishness.
In 2014 the Abbott government pledged $1.6 billion to the Perth Freight Link project, a road that didn't reach Fremantle port, had no cost benefit analysis, was to be operated as a private toll road and was designed to facilitate the privatisation of Fremantle port. When the money was announced, it took the Barnett government completely by surprise. Unfortunately, they've always been prepared to be pushed around by their federal liberal colleagues. They made it the centrepiece of their 2017 state election campaign, and, scandalously, against the advice of Main Roads Western Australia, in the shadow of that election the Barnett government wasted $20 million of taxpayers' funds and knocked over 100 hectares of the fragile Beeliar Wetlands. Not surprisingly, that kind of arrogance was repaid at the ballot box, and the people of Western Australia chose a different future: a future in which, thanks to the McGowan Labor government, port operations remain a public asset rather than being sold off; and a future in which rail, road and public transport projects are being delivered across the south metro region, the region I represent, after nine years in which the Barnett government delivered nothing.
That future is now being realised. We've already seen the widening of the freeway northbound from Russell Road. We've already seen a significant jump in freight rail, with a corresponding decrease in truck freight. We're now seeing the new Armidale Road-North Lake Road Bridge project well underway, which will improve connectivity and address congestion for my constituents in the City of Cockburn and for my colleague's, the member for Burt, constituents. We're seeing the long-awaited upgrade of High Street in Freemantle.
Sadly, the crystal clear choice made by the people of WA has fallen on deaf ears when it comes to the west Australian Liberals, because since 2018 this federal Liberal government has put aside another $1.2 billion for what they call 'Roe 8' and 'Roe 9'. That means that WA continues to be short-changed. It means that WA Liberals, sadly, keep dancing to the tune of their federal masters. Four years in the wilderness and they still put the interests of WA behind their blind loyalty to whatever they're told from Canberra.
Will they ever have the bottle to speak up about submarine maintenance and defence shipbuilding in Western Australia? Will they ever have the courage to call out the fact that WA has been lumped with the largest share of the worst NBN technology? Who knows. But, four years later, we are still waiting. Instead of speaking up and instead of having the courage to pressure the Morrison government, they're now doubling-down on a piece of madness that died four years ago. Nothing demonstrates the deep uselessness and irrelevance of the WA Liberals better than the fact that, after four years, in which you'd think they might have done some policy work and considered some new ideas, the self-described centrepiece of their 2021 campaign is, wait for it: Roe 8 and Roe 9.
I know the member for Tangney and his colleagues enjoy political games and stunts, and that's their choice. But they've also made a big song and dance in the past about the importance of respecting a political mandate. The people of Western Australia made a decisive choice in March 2017 that hasn't been respected by WA Liberals, state or federal. They continue to ignore the needs of Western Australians. They continue to put their vanity above the projects, services and jobs that WA needs to emerge from this health and economic crisis.
In three weeks time, we'll be on the other side of another Western Australian state election. If the people of Western Australia again reject the pointless, wasteful and harmful Roe 8 project, it will be utterly unacceptable for WA to be denied the opportunity to benefit from budgeted federal funds—$1.2 billion in federal funds. That funding should be applied to projects that support our community's needs and help Western Australia recover from the pandemic. That funding should not be held to ransom in the name of a political game—a silly set of political stunts that answer to the vanity and the selfishness of federal Liberals who continue to take Western Australia for granted.
I thank the member for Fremantle for bringing the motion today and enabling all of us to talk about our wonderful state of Western Australia. I'm sure those opposite—I have some Western Australian colleagues—would acknowledge all Western Australians and the incredibly hard work they've done during our, thankfully, very short lockdown. Whilst we haven't done it as difficult as some other states—and certainly not as difficult as some other countries in the world—we know that this COVID pandemic is disrupting homes, families, businesses and organisations right around the country. We've had a recent taste of that, so congratulations to all Western Australians and also, of course, to emergency services, police, health workers, aged-care workers and all those who are on the front line. It's particularly pleasing, of course, that, as of today, the formal commencement of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is occurring in our home state of Western Australia and around the country.
To come to the motion today, it also provides an opportunity for me to talk about the Morrison government's commitment to infrastructure projects both in WA and around the country. We should consider, firstly: why is this government investing in infrastructure? Fundamentally, we know that good, well-planned infrastructure can only be built with, often, assistance from federal government and, typically, in partnership with states as well. There are a few things I'll touch on where those partnerships are in place and are certainly delivering for our local community.
It's also part of the reason why the Morrison government has expanded and brought forward a lot of the expenditure related to that $100 billion Infrastructure Investment Program over the period of 10 years. However, this sort of investment is not new. In fact, since coming to government in 2013, this government has actually invested a figure of $15½ billion in infrastructure in Western Australia. And now, in the most recent 2020-21 budget, the Australian government announced $1.1 billion to infrastructure projects in WA. This includes, also, $45 million towards the Stirling bus interchange, with construction due to start in late 2021. The Stirling bus interchange, in my electorate of Stirling, is a great example of cooperation between the state and the federal government, working collaboratively for the benefit of our local community. The project will upgrade the Stirling bus interchange, which is on the Joondalup line, as well as the associated interchange infrastructure. The federal government is spending $45 million of the required $90 million for this project. This will inject tens of millions of dollars into the local community and will, of course, also support a great range of jobs. It will benefit all of those people who use our public transport network to travel daily, whether that be for work, for visiting others in the community or for leisure as well.
Another major project in my electorate of Stirling—and it also borders on Curtin as well—is the Stephenson Avenue extension. The involves an extension of Stephenson Avenue from Scarborough Beach Road through to the Sarich Court intersection. The Morrison government has allocated $82.5 million towards the overall cost of $165 million—with, again, the state partnering for the remainder. This project commenced in August 2020 and is due for completion by the mid to end of 2023. So there are just a couple of examples in Stirling where we have seen the federal government's infrastructure investment really making a difference on the ground.
I also want to talk about the Perth City Deal. A deal was signed on 20 September last year, and it includes $1.5 billion over 10 years, in partnership with the state government, to deliver economic stimulus, jobs and liveability outcomes throughout the Perth CBD. This will create jobs and it will support further private investment. We are investing $414 million in that Perth City Deal to make transformative investments in the joint vision agreed between all three tiers of government.
In summary, whether it has been from an economic, health or any other standpoint, our government's resolve continues to be that we support the Australian public and that we grow our economy through this pandemic recovery period.
Unlike those opposite, the McGowan WA Labor government have kept WA safe and strong as they have maintained a hard WA border when required and now as they open up to the rest of the nation. This stands in stark contrast to the Morrison Liberal government and its Attorney-General siding with Clive Palmer to bring down WA's border when it was unsafe to do so. This strong approach by Mark McGowan and his team, always following the health advice, has kept WA's resources and construction industries powering along, supporting not only the Western Australian economy but also our nation's economy.
The WA Labor Mark McGowan government get WA. They know what WA wants. The Western Australian people rejected the Perth freight link proposal announced by the then Treasurer, Joe Hockey, in 2014, convincingly ruling it out with the way that they voted in the 2017 state election—a project that was previously knocked on the head nearly two decades earlier. The project lacked any credible evidence to support the idea that it would improve road connectivity. In fact, it didn't even reach the port that it was supposed to be helping. It was literally a road to nowhere. Encouraged, though, by the federal Liberals, the WA government then under Premier Barnett powered along, wasting $20 billion of taxpayers' funds, pointlessly and bloody-mindedly smashing down 100 hectares of fragile black cockatoo habitat through the Beeliar Wetlands. There was $1.2 billion in federal funding set aside for that freight link.
The WA Labor government understand what people actually want. Both the member for Fremantle and I have been fighting since before we were in parliament to got funding for the Armadale Road to North Lake Bridge project. That $1.2 billion previously set aside for the redundant freight link project has been able to assist with building that new bridge over the freeway as well as the Thornlie to Cockburn METRONET rail link, which will connect the eastern side of my community to the west. Ridiculously, the Morrison government has now set aside another $1.2 billion as contingent expenditure in the budget to fund this redundant freight link project. This project is completely dead in the water. But tell that to the member for Tangney, who should be more focused on what his community actually want—resolving congestion by duplicating the Shelley Bridge.
We are calling on the federal government to respect the wishes of the people of Western Australia—there's a first time for everything, I guess—who so convincingly ruled out the Roe 8/9 project in the 2017 state election. The federal government must work with the soon-to-be re-elected Mark McGowan Labor government in WA to support jobs, business activity, transport infrastructure and our economy and communities by instead allocating these currently misallocated funds to projects that we do need and want in our community. Such projects include a regional sporting complex in Armadale; upgrades to the Sutherlands Park regional sporting complex in Southern River; sinking the rail line through Armadale and Gosnells; sinking Albany Highway through Cannington; flyovers for Tonkin Highway at Armadale Road and Ranford Road; extending Garden Street from Harpenden Street down to Holmes Road; duplicating the Shelley Bridge on Leach Highway; light rail down Armadale Road to Cockburn Central and up Ranford Road to the Murdoch station; and joining the airport rail link from High Wycombe through to the Thornlie Line with a new station at Wattle Grove. All these projects would contribute to building a better Burt and building better lives for Perth's south-east suburb communities.
But these are just the projects in and around Burt. I know that each of my Western Australian colleagues in this place will have projects in their own areas that will go a long way to improving their communities, too. We've heard from the member for Stirling. Where's the member for Tangney, the great proponent of this failed Perth freight link project? Not one other Liberal member from Western Australia is here to defend that project. I think that's quite telling, isn't it? They don't have any better idea or suggestion of how to defend that project, which is a waste of money, and they can't defend it against the much better projects in all of our local communities. There are so many great projects that can and should be undertaken in Western Australia. So, Prime Minister, I say to you: please stop holding us to ransom for your white elephant project.
I have to start by reiterating the observation there by the member for Burt, that the WA federal Liberal members had an opportunity to come out here and talk about the infrastructure needs for each of their electorates and each one of them, bar the member for Stirling, absolutely failed to take that opportunity. Sometimes it's the things you don't say that speak more about your values and what you care about than the things you do say. So, I really want this observation on record: that they had an opportunity to come here, they had an opportunity to stand up for their electorates, to talk about the infrastructure needs in their electorates and to stand up for the people they are charged to represent, and they absolutely failed to do that.
I'd like to also take the opportunity to thank the member for Fremantle for bringing this motion on the Perth freight link project to the House, because it is a very important motion. What the member's motion really speaks to is the legacy of the previous, Liberal Barnett government in WA, who squandered taxpayer money on a range of vanity projects without actually delivering much-needed infrastructure to Western Australians. I'm pleased to see that the McGowan Labor government has since picked up a lot on that. You only need to drive through WA to see the massive amount of expenditure the WA government has put into developing much-needed infrastructure throughout the various electorates.
I want to talk a little bit about the northern suburbs and the needs for infrastructure in those suburbs. In particular, the thing that lands on my desk time and time again, the thing that people keep calling up about, is none other than the infrastructure needed for the internet and the NBN. In the years since I was elected, since 2016, NBN infrastructure has been the one constant throughout that whole time. Issues come and go, and campaigns come and go, and people change the things that are priorities to them. But the one constant has been the lack of NBN in suburbs like Greenwood and Gnangara in my electorate. Just yesterday I got an email from the Peacheys, who live in Gnangara and who still don't have NBN. They still don't have any internet in Gnangara, which is actually not a very residential suburb; it's actually an industrial area of my electorate. Now, if you can't even deliver NBN to businesses, how do you expect to get the economy back on track after COVID? How do you expect people to have jobs? How do you expect businesses to thrive if they don't even have access to the internet?
But it's not just on the NBN. The federal Liberal government has failed to deliver to people in the northern suburbs of Perth on a grand scale.
We've been very fortunate. My colleagues have spoken a lot about the successes of the Mark McGowan government in Western Australia, and we do have an election coming up in a couple of weeks time, but one of the things that you can observe is that the McGowan government has actually picked up the slack on a lot of the broken promises and failures of delivery on things the federal government is supposed to have achieved as they had promised.
This federal government had promised the people of Cowan a training hub in Wanneroo—that's what they'd promised. I note that they'd also promised one in the member for Burt's electorate. I wrote to Minister Cash, asking for an explanation about where this training hub was, because it's critical infrastructure that would provide not just training services but a number of jobs for people in the northern suburbs. I was told that it would be all done by January. Well, January has come and gone; we're now heading into March—and still nothing.
Meanwhile, the McGowan government has come to the party. They've filled in that gap. They've delivered a whole range of reforms to training to make it easier for students and for people over the age of 21 to get into vocational education and training.
So, in closing, I reiterate the calls from my colleagues the member for Fremantle and the member for Burt for this government to stop ignoring Western Australians and for the Western Australian members, many of whom are senior, to stand up for their state.