Subjects: WA infrastructure; Christian Porter; Peter Dutton apology.
MARK MCGOWAN, PREMIER OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Thanks very much, everyone. Very pleased to announce today that in the State Budget coming down shortly, the State Government will be funding eight new road projects in the eastern suburbs that will create 8000 jobs and will be part of a $1.7 billion road construction program. Obviously we’re very keen to create jobs. We’re very keen to make sure we back in the commitments both by Federal Labor and the Commonwealth Government and we’re going to put in our share to make sure that those road projects happen.
This is a congestion busting, job creating program that will ensure some of those long-term issues in the eastern suburbs of Perth are dealt with. Anyone who drives up Roe Highway will know that it needs work and that there’s too many interchanges and intersections. It’s too narrow in places. Anyone who drives up Tonkin Highway knows exactly the same thing. So Roe and Tonkin highways will receive major attention out of this program of works and this will ensure that the people of the eastern suburbs get much better road connections, we reduce congestion and we create jobs; 8000 jobs out of this set of projects is very significant and it builds on the other 20 major road projects that are underway around Perth that are improving congestion and also creating jobs. And it will also build on those important regional road programs that WA Labor has – the WA Labor Government – has supported, including the Albany Ring Road, the Bunbury Ring Road and the Karratha-Tom Price Road; three road projects in regional WA talked about for decades but underway, under my Government.
My Government has worked incredibly hard both with Federal Labor and also the Commonwealth Government to get commitment towards these projects and that’s why these projects are now happening. We have been unafraid to ask for money nationally and to see commitments. I’d like to especially thank the Federal Labor team for all of their efforts in pursuing these projects; putting them on to the table, getting some of them funded and committing to them early and also for backing in this set of projects here today so that we have absolute certainty they’ll be underway after the next Federal Election. So this is an important day for Perth, an important day for Western Australia, a great day for jobs, a great day for busting congestion and an excellent set of outcomes for the eastern suburbs of Perth. Anthony?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much. We look forward to working with Premier McGowan and Rita Saffioti to deliver these projects if we’re successful on the 18th of May in electing a Shorten Labor Government. This commitment from Federal Labor today follows commitments which we’d previously made to a number of the specific projects, where it was Federal Labor out there making announcements about overpasses at Welshpool and Leach, the work that’s required to upgrade the Tonkin Highway as well as of course the commitments that we’ve made to the METRONET project. When we were last in government we lifted Federal infrastructure funding here in WA from $150 for every West Australian to $260 for every West Australian. And what we want to do is to partner with the WA Government to create jobs, to ease congestion, to improve public transport and to improve the quality of life particularly here in Perth, but also right around the State. Perth does suffer from congestion and the projections which have been made by Infrastructure Australia identified seven of the ten worst choke points by 2030 as being right here in Perth, if they weren’t addressed. That’s why this announcement today builds on the work that we did in the past, such as Gateway WA – the largest ever road project from the Commonwealth -here in WA; the Swan Valley Bypass of course that was begun under Federal Labor and other work that we did including the Perth City Link project. Federal Labor is absolutely committed to infrastructure and nation building, to the jobs that are created in the short term but improving the quality of life for people here in this great city of Perth. This is my fifth visit to WA so far this year. I’m a regular visitor. I work cooperatively with the WA Labor Government and congratulate them on the work that they have done because at the end of the day what the Commonwealth can do is to provide investment. But it’s the WA Government that are showing the vision in actually tackling urban congestion.
RITA SAFFIOTI, WA MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT, PLANNING: Thank you. I will make some brief comments and take any questions about the projects. This is a really exciting package for Perth and the suburbs. It is the next stage of our busting congestion and creating jobs package. It really means that a lot of the choke points, a lot of those congested intersections will be fixed as part of this package; Leach-Welshpool, for example, a major congestion point, but primarily the Tonkin Highway. What this will see will be a transformation of the Tonkin Highway – The Gap Project, three new interchanges in the southern part and of course the extension of the Tonkin Highway south. What it does is it moves freight, north-south, easier. And it also will connect up to the New Outer Harbour project as well. So this is a really exciting project for the eastern corridor. For areas that are experiencing significant congestion, reducing those hotspots and really making sure people can get home to their families earlier. But also so we can move freight around our suburbs easier.
REPORTER: (inaudible) a connection to the Outer harbour. Does that mean you are committed to that project and if so, when will that take place?
SAFFIOTI: We’ve always been committed to the Outer Harbour. In relation to timing, the Westport taskforce will deliver its deliberations at the end of this year, so this is part of our planning for moving people and freight around Perth and the metropolitan area. It’s a long-term, sensible vision for the state and actually a long-term, sensible vision for our economy.
REPORTER: And there will be how much money in the Budget?
SAFFIOTI: Well the total package is $1.7 billion. That includes two projects that were already funded. But $1.7 billion will be in the Budget in the Forward Estimates and outside the Forward Estimates.
REPORTER: You’ve got 8000 jobs. How did you arrive at that figure?
SAFFIOTI: Well there is an Australian well-known sort of multiplier or construction index multiplier which shows that when you are investing in civil infrastructure, then certain amounts of jobs are created. So Main Roads works through that data, looks at the amount of people being involved and we have tried to be consistent for all of our road projects.
REPORTER: So it is compiled by Main Roads, not by Cabinet…just sort of makes something up?
SAFFIOTI: It is compiled by Main Roads using an Australian, known construction index.
REPORTER: Do you expect any blowback from … I know you have dismissed Roe 8 money which the Federal Government keeps offering, but do you expect any blowback during this campaign?
SAFFIOTI: I will just make a couple of comments and invite anyone else that wants to contribute. We have put forward a medium and longer term strategy to address freight on rail. What we are doing is investing in putting more freight on rail and that is already working. We have moved from 15 per cent of freight on rail to over 22 per cent in less than two years. We are also investing in the High Street Connection. So what we are doing is sensible solutions to address the freight issue on Leach Highway. In addition of course we are planning for the Outer Harbour. So ours is a long-term, sensible plan. We know the Liberal Party keeps talking about a contingent liability, but that is not money in the Budget. That is basically money outside the Budget. Importantly the other point I want to make; it’s actually the Morrison Government that has put money toward the Westport Taskforce investigations. So we have a bizarre situation with a local member talking about a project in the past, where the Morrison Government has actually allocated real money into the Westport Taskforce which is investigating and will be delivering options for the Outer Harbour.
ALBANESE: I’m just keen on getting rid of this fantasy of Mathias Cormann who suggests that somehow having contingent liability is real. It’s not. I put together six Budgets as the Infrastructure Minister. We never had contingent liability with a little asterisk in there for major projects, because it is not real. And what they are doing is pumping up the amount of money that they allegedly have available for infrastructure by including projects that they know aren’t happening, with no time frame, with a little asterisk in the Budget. What we will do is have real money for real projects with real time lines to create real jobs that make a real difference. This is just a fantasy for them to suggest. But it is worse than that because they pretend that this money is available but it is actually not because it is not in the Budget, just like it is not in the Budget for the East-West Link in Melbourne. So the fact is that Federal Labor supports the Outer Harbour. We look forward to working with the WA Government on these issues and our fantastic candidates who are here, Matt Keogh, the Member for Burt, but our candidates Hannah Beazley, James Martin and Mellisa Teede; we want them to join myself and Matt in the Federal Labor caucus so that WA has an even stronger voice in a Federal Labor Government.
REPORTER: When it comes to the Outer Harbour, is the MUA just a bit of background noise?
ALBANESE: The fact is that infrastructure projects should be based upon their merit and we will make judgements based upon merit. We have done that in the past, before the taskforce has been established, but we went to the 2013 election committing money for some of the pre-work, the preliminary work that is required for the Outer Harbour. The fact is that it will be required in the future and we look forward to getting an outcome that is in the interests of our national economy, but in particular in the interests of jobs here in WA.
McGOWAN: I think that Rita and Anthony answered that pretty well. All I would say about Roe 8 is it was environmentally devastating and it stopped 3km short of Fremantle Port. It was a monumental waste of money. What we managed to do was get the original commitment that the Federal Government made and get that committed to about 20 road projects around Perth and around Western Australia that have assisted in creating jobs and also busting congestion all over the state.
REPORTER: Just on other issues. Christian Porter said that you should announce that you are going to freeze any increase in power and water prices in this coming Budget.
MCGOWAN: I’ll tell you one thing. I am not going to be lectured by Christian Porter, who was the Treasurer in the Liberal Government that blew the State’s debt by $40 billion and gave us $3 billion deficits and put up the price of power by 90 per cent. That’s Mr Porter’s record. That’s what he did. He seems to forget he was the Treasurer of Western Australia in the Barnett Liberal Government that lost the State $40 billion – 40,000 million; the worst financial management in the history of Western Australia and one of the worst sets of financial managements in the history of Australia. So for him to come and now put forward ideas, he has no right. Now when the Budget comes down of course you’ll see the benefits of good financial management and we will make sure the fees and charges are as affordable as possible, in the financial environment that we’re in. But Christian Porter, he seems to have no memory for what he did – 40 thousand million dollars of Liberal National debt.
REPORTER: With the fact there have been more disconnections from the grid (inaudible) people can’t pay their bills. Isn’t it time to put a hold on prices?
McGOWAN: As I have said, you will see the results of good financial management in the Budget and we will make it as affordable as we can. We funded financial counsellors. We’ve put in place support mechanisms for people on low incomes. All those things are there. We understand that there’s an issue. That’s why you will see the benefits of good financial management. But also I just want to mention one other thing to you. Obviously when the GST top-up payments were announced we committed to putting them towards debt reduction and that is because of the $40 billion of debt that the Liberals and Nationals left us.
REPORTER: In respect of utility charges though?
McGOWAN: We will announce everything in the Budget.
REPORTER: (inaudible) in the Forward Estimates?
McGOWAN: We will announce everything in the Budget but we will make it as affordable as we can in the financial circumstances we face.
REPORTER: Have you met with the promoters of the Three Oceans development which has now apparently been put on ice?
SAFFIOTI: There is going to be a meeting this week with my office in relation to that proposal and so we are keen to hear direct from the proponents.
REPORTER: But what have you heard today?
SAFFIOTI: What was outlined in today’s paper. We understand they are considering some other options. But that is all we have heard and we are keen to hear directly from them.
REPORTER: From what you do know, do you have any prospect of keeping it going?
SAFFIOTI: Well we are very keen to see development in that area. The state has poured tens of millions of dollars into infrastructure in that area. There is a vision for that area. We are very keen to see development going forward. But we are waiting to hear directly from the proponents about what they are suggesting.
REPORTER: So you learned about it from reading it this morning?
SAFFIOTI: No, sorry, there were comments in the paper. We’ve heard indirectly that they are reconsidering or looking at other options and that is something that we are keen to hear directly from them.
REPORTER: (inaudible) to the site?
REPORTER: Will you go into that meeting with any (inaudible) or considerations you can offer them?
SAFFIOTI: This is a decision for proponents and the MRA board so what I am keen to hear is because of the media enquiries to understand directly from them exactly what they are suggesting.
REPORTER: Would it be disappointing if that area stays vacant for years to come?
SAFFIOTI: I think the vision that was put forward, a vision that we inherited, was for development in that area supported by tens of millions of dollars of both city and State Government infrastructure spend. So we are very keen to see development. As you would see we believe we really need to support development to create jobs in WA and we believe both civil construction – new roads and bridges and METRONET – together with facilitating other private sector investments, is very key to stimulating greater jobs growth.
REPORTER: You don’t know if it’s a cash flow issue or some breakdown within the company?
SAFFIOTI: Not sure.
REPORTER: A former tunnel worker says that he was fired for filming unsafe conditions on the tunnel project and the contractor is trying to set an example of him. Is that concerning?
SAFFIOTI: We’ve always, since we have inherited the project we have increased the level of surveillance and compliance activity at the site. So we have Work Safe involved. We have a number of investigators involved and compliance officers involved and that is what we have continued to do. The tunnel project, we are very keen to see the project continue and continue strongly. I will get particular advice about those issues and the issues in the papers today but we have really increased safety compliance and the involvement of Work Safe for example on that site.
REPORTER: Is it appropriate that workers voice their concerns when they do feel like something has gone wrong?
SAFFIOTI: And we hope those systems are in place to allow the workers that when they identify issues have the appropriate way to voice their concerns and make sure that those issues are adequately addressed. So again I will seek further advice but we have really increased the amount of safety compliance on that site to really ensure that there is more monitoring of activity, to ensure that occupational health and safety regulations are adhered to.
REPORTER: What do you make of that claim though, “set an example of him’’?
SAFFIOTI: I don’t know exactly the full situation. That is why I will get briefed on the full situation. But as I have said, we take issues of safety very seriously and that is why over the past year we have increased the number of compliance officers. We have really tried to ensure that the company, that everyone involved, knows that safety is our number one priority for that construction site.
McGOWAN: I heard the reports this morning. Obviously this is tragic and the family must be going through extraordinary grief at the moment. All our hearts go out to anyone in that situation and I hope the family is coping, I don’t intend at this point in time to get into the rights or wrongs of those sort of things. I think that would be insensitive and inappropriate. I just say that we all feel deeply for the family involved and it is a terrible thing when a seven-year-old dies.
REPORTER: Should there be some regulations changed so children should not be able to ride these quad bikes?
McGOWAN: I’m not going to get into the rights or wrongs. I don’t think that that would be sensitive, nor appropriate at this point in time when a seven-year-old has died. But I just pass on my thoughts and everyone’s thoughts to the family involved.
REPORTER: The ACCC has called for quad bikes to be fitted with a rollover protection device. Would you support that?
McGOWAN: As I said, I’m not going to get into it because it would be insensitive to the family involved, but obviously all our thoughts go out to the family at this point in time.
REPORTER: There’s also a couple of other nasty crashes overnight and a few other fatal ones. Do you have any advice or warnings for drivers who are driving in the middle of the night, late at night on weekends?
McGOWAN: Which incidents are you talking about?
McGOWAN: The road toll is a terrible thing. We work very hard on education, on road improvements and we’d encourage everyone on the roads to take care, don’t drive tired, don’t take drugs and don’t drink. It’s a tragedy for every family and every individual involved when this happens.
REPORTER: Melissa Parke, are you disappointed with that outcome?
ALBANESE: Melissa has made a decision. I think the issue with regard to candidates that I’m concerned about, is a Cabinet Minister, Peter Dutton. Peter Dutton’s comments on Ali France are reprehensible. He apologised very late after days of dragging the Prime Minister and other senior members of the Government into what is a scandal. We have just launched, with bipartisan support, a Royal Commission into abuse of people with disabilities. And at that time I would have thought that Peter Dutton, if he’d been paying any attention whatsoever in Question Time, in the Parliament, to the debate that is going on in civil society about the need to have respect for people with disabilities, he wouldn’t have made this comment about our outstanding candidate for Dickson, Ali France. What it shows is that he is under pressure and when he is under pressure I think he shows his true character which is, I think, frankly the Parliament would be better off with someone like Ali France who is compassionate, caring, committed, principled, as the Member for Dickson. We of course know that Peter Dutton tried to flee his seat, for a safer seat on the Gold Coast and was rejected by members of his own party at that time. I think all Australians will reject the comments that he has made and think that his very late apology, dragged kicking and screaming to it, was not good enough.
REPORTER: But what did you make of the vigour of the apology? He says: “I apologise to Ms France for my comments yesterday. My argument with the Labor candidate is about how our respective policies would affect the people of Dickson”. Is that an apology?
ALBANESE: Well it’s not fair dinkum, is it? Because his statement was very much targeted at Ali France, saying that, the fact that she lived two kilometres outside of her electorate of Dickson and that she hopes to represent, when there are redistributions every single time an election is held in Queensland, is just not good enough. How about an unreserved, unconditional apology? That is what Ali France deserves, is what she hasn’t got. And more importantly I think that it is what Australian politics deserves. We deserve better as the Australian public.
REPORTER: Eddie McGuire had more to say by way of an apology.
ALBANESE: Eddie McGuire; of course his comments were very much regrettable as well. He didn’t wait to make an apology it’s got to be said. He made an apology by the end of that football game involving the Swans. Peter Dutton doubled down the next day, doubled down on his comments. And then, days later, after the Prime Minister and other senior members of the Government have been drawn into this. Quite clearly, they’ve said to him: ‘Mate you better say something, because this is a very bad look for the Government’. It is a pity that he didn’t know in himself. From time to time people will make mistakes. What we see here is someone who has made a comment, doubled down the next day and clearly therefore stands by it.
SUNDAY, 14 APRIL 2019
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.