Mar 9, 2014

Abbott owes WA an explanation

TONY Abbott must explain to Western Australians why he plans to rip nearly $500 million out of the existing federal budget for urban rail public transport projects in Perth.

While the Prime Minister lectures state governments and even foreign governments about the need to invest in infrastructure to boost economic growth, he’s limiting growth in the WA economy by refusing to address Perth’s traffic congestion.

The previous Labor government allocated nearly $500 million for public transport in Western Australia to help ease congestion, including for the Perth Light Rail Project and the airport link.

But Mr Abbott has refused to honour the fully funded commitment and will take back the Labor funding in his May Budget.

Mr Abbott believes that the Commonwealth should fund road building while leaving states to invest in public transport.

This is an absurd position – a recipe for gridlock and a return to the blame game so favoured by Coalition governments.

Mr Abbott’s approach will deny the economy of Western Australia the critical productivity gains that can be gained by reducing traffic congestion.

Improving productivity by reducing congestion will boost economic growth and create jobs for people in Perth.

Mr Abbott’s cheap excuse for his refusal to invest in urban rail is that if he focuses on roads, the Barnett Government will be able to focus on railways.

But he knows that early in January WA Treasurer Troy Buswell, made clear he had no capacity to invest in public transport.

“We won’t be at the hall for that dance,’’ Mr Buswell said.

If Perth is to remain a liveable, productive city, governments need to invest in which ever mode of infrastructure will have the greatest effect on improving urban amenity and lifting productivity.

Mr Abbott would prefer to blame state governments for problems and avoid any financial commitments than actually make a difference to people’s lives.