Jun 19, 2014

Asset Recycling Fund Bill 2014

I go to the amendments and why it is important to have a proper process around the allocation of any funding arising from this legislation.

I go to the issue of the Perth Freight Link project.

I ask the parliamentary secretary to consider these issues seriously when he considers the amendments that I have moved.

In the budget there is a considerable allocation of money for the so-called Perth Freight Link project.

I was surprised because infrastructure projects tend not to just pop out of a Weeties packet in the morning, they tend to be the subject of a long-term development process.

There is engagement at the bureaucratic and at ministerial level. I had a good relationship, I must say, with Troy Buswell, the WA transport minister, and we engaged regularly about our common interests over projects like the Gateway WA project, for example, that has been under construction for two years but which the government is pretending has just begun in the last two minutes.

The Perth Freight Link project therefore surprised me when it popped out just prior to the budget.

But it appears that I was not the only one who was surprised; the WA government were pretty surprised about it as well.

There has been almost $1 billion allocated for this project but this is what the WA parliamentary secretary with responsibility for transport, the Hon. Jim Chown, had to say to questions in the estimates process of the Standing Committee on Estimates and Financial Operations in the WA parliament just last week, on Thursday, 12 June.

In response to questions about Freight Link he said:

Look, it is a bit early to give a breakdown. It is still under development in regard to the Perth Freight Link.

That is the Hon. Jim Chown. Then he was asked about more detail, and he said:

The commonwealth has a propensity to make these announcements, as you well know, but the reality is that the Main Roads department and this government will be implementing and designing the Roe 8 extension, and at this stage we have not actually got design plans that are worthy of public scrutiny, as the director has stated.

He went on to state some quite extraordinary positions. When asked, he said that all options are on the table because they just had not got any detail.

Ken Travers, Labor’s transport spokesperson in WA, said about the Commonwealth that they must have had conversations with the WA government.

Again, the Hon. Jim Chown said:

Maybe that is a question you should be asking a commonwealth government representative.It was quite extraordinary evidence given. For example, on the claims that have been made by the government, Mr Travers asked:

So you are not in a position to provide any modelling to show that 65,000 heavy vehicles will be taken off Perth roads?

The Hon. Jim Chown responded:

Not at this stage, and I think the director general has stated his reasoning really well.

Another question from Ken Travers was:

Would it be helpful, then, for the commonwealth minister to stop making claims that cannot be backed up and that you do not have the evidence to support?

This was the answer from the WA Liberal Party member of the executive responsible for transport to this committee:

The simple answer in the context of the conversation would be yes!

 Here you have the WA coalition government saying can the federal government stop talking through its hat with regard to infrastructure projects, because the detail simply has not been done.

What we argue is that you do the planning, you get the detail, you get the economic assessment and then you determine where the funding should go.

What this amendment before the parliament today does is ensure that the government’s rhetoric is able to be implemented.

It is as simple as that, and I do not understand why the government is not supporting these amendments. I commend them to the House.