Subjects: Infrastructure; Fremantle Port.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks for joining us. Today I’m with my parliamentary colleague Josh Wilson, the member for Fremantle, and also Simone McGurk, the State Member for Fremantle, and Lisa O’Malley who is Labor’s candidate for Bicton, representing this region both state and federal for Labor. I’m here today to reiterate Labor’s opposition to the disastrous, badly planned, badly financed Perth Freight Link project. This is a project that arose out of a thought bubble from Tony Abbott. Tony Abbott’s Government ripped $500m away from Western Australia that had been allocated for public transport projects in the former Labor Government’s 2013 budget, and they came up with this so-called Perth Freight Link plan. The problem is there were no environment proposals or approvals and the planning of the project didn’t make sense because it didn’t take freight to the port of Fremantle.
In terms of the longer term needs of Fremantle and the region, it didn’t deal with the fact that Fremantle Port is almost at capacity. Therefore the real solution here in terms of freight from this part of Western Australia is the Outer Harbour at Kwinana. This project is an example of bad planning. The environmental disaster that is occurring as a result of clearing around the wetlands to the south of here just shows that this was a project that wasn’t thought through. It’s a direct result of Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull’s governments abandoning support for any public transport program, abandoning proper processes for road projects, and looking for a project such as this that is undoubtedly connected to the proposal to privatise the port here at Fremantle.
In contrast, when we were in government, we funded important road projects that did make sense; that boosted productivity; that supported jobs, such as the Gateway WA project, such as the Swan Valley bypass, now known as NorthLink, such as the widening of the Great Eastern Highway.
And we also funded public transport projects, like Perth City Link; throughout Western Australia with projects like the North-West Coastal highway; the upgrade to the Great Northern Highway; access to the port at Esperance and the work around the Bunbury Port, and indeed between Perth and Bunbury. This showed what happens when you have good investment, driven by proper analysis that boosts jobs.
This project is a dud project, and that’s why there’s been so little progress on it since the 2014 Budget. We support the position of WA Labor, of Mark McGowan and his team, to reallocate the Federal funding that has been provided for this dud project into projects that will create jobs, boost productivity, and assist the WA economy to get back on its feet – projects like Perth METRONET; projects here to the south around Cockburn, and to the North around Waneroo. These are the sorts of projects that are necessary and that’s why this election here in WA in March is so important for the future of Perth and the future of this great state.
LISA O’MALLEY: This project locks us into a future of trucks and congestion in the state seat of Bicton. It’s not a good project. All the evidence points to the Outer Harbour as the future for WA. While we’ve still got trucks on our road through East Fremantle, through Melville, through Bicton, we won’t have safe communities. There hasn’t been enough attention paid to the economic repercussions of locking us into this long-term project of continuing trucks on our roads – a project that ends, as we know all too well, 3km short of a port that will be at capacity in the near future.
We only have to listen to the trucks travelling over our heads here on to the Stirling Highway, you only have to come down here either when there is either an accident on this bridge or a heavy load crossing this bridge, to see all the vehicles backed up – backed up into North Fremantle and backed up into the seat of Bicton in East Fremantle.
It’s not a good plan, it never was a good plan and the people in my community, the community of Bicton, East Fremantle, Palmyra, Melville know that it’s a bad and are very seriously concerned about the amount of money spent already by a cash strapped state, that is being put into this project.
REPORTER: Do you find any support coming out of your seat for the Perth Freight Link?
O’MALLEY: No, not for the freight link, absolutely not. The freight link again means congestion backed up into Fremantle.
REPORTER: So Matt Taylor’s up against it?
O’MALLEY: I’m not concerned about what Matt Taylor is doing. I’m focussed on communicating the alternative plan for the people of my electorate. They are listening and they want to know more.
REPORTER: Paul Fletcher said again recently that the money can’t be reallocated. What do you say to that?
ALBANESE: Well Paul Fletcher needs to get on top of this issue. It’s very clear that when the Federal Government announced this project, the WA government responded by saying they didn’t have plans that were worthy of public scrutiny. This was announced on the run, the Federal Government needs to acknowledge that. And it can be hairy chested before an election, but the truth that money was allocated because the Abbott Government said it wouldn’t fund public transport. So they ripped $500m out that had been allocated in the Budget for the airport rail link, and for light rail here in Perth, and they allocated it to a project that wasn’t ready for public scrutiny and still isn’t.
This is a project that doesn’t go to the port. So how you have a freight link project to a port that stops so far short of it is beyond me. That’s why this project doesn’t stack up and Paul Fletcher has a responsibility, as do other Federal Government ministers, to look after public finances to make sure that projects get funded that achieve the best outcomes. This clearly will not do that.
REPORTER: But how confident is Labor that they’ll be able to reallocate that money?
ALBANESE: Well the fact is, this is a project of which the planning is still being done on the run. The so-called Roe 9 proposal is very new indeed. So in terms of the planning here we’re talking here about a 2014 government announcement. It’s now three years since then and they’re still talking about the planning being finalised and the environment approvals being finalised.
The fact is that the Federal Government under the Coalition, whether it be Tony Abbott or Malcolm Turnbull, have failed on infrastructure. Every single quarter since they came to office after September 2013, which is 12 quarters of data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that investment in public infrastructure is lower than it was for every single one of the 21 quarters that Federal Labor were in office between June 2008 – our first budget quarter – and September 2013.
Not one quarter have they matched Labor’s investment and that is having a drag on the economy because projects that were funded by Federal Labor in cooperation with the WA government, like Gateway WA, like City Link, have been completed, and projects like the Swan Valley Bypass, now known as NorthLink, are under construction. Esperance is open, the North West Coastal Highway has been completed, Port Hedland has been completed. All of these projects have been finished that were begun – some of them completed – while we were in government, like the Great Eastern Highway.
What you see – and this is my fifth visit to WA in the last year – and what I see here is that there are no projects underway which weren’t begun when we were in office prior to 2013. And that is an indictment of the State Coalition Government and the Federal Coalition. All they have is the start of this Perth Freight Link proposal which is a dud project and they should abandon it, recognise they got it wrong, and allocate it to projects like Perth METRONET, to upgrade the public transport that Perth and Western Australia needs.
REPORTER: The two governments would argue that if you were to start work on the Outer Harbour it wouldn’t be finished for another ten years and in that time there’s going to be increasing congestion at Perth port. You can see this bridge is pretty busy now and it gets busier later. They would say that something needs to be done and they are doing it.
ALBANESE: Well the truth is, and they know this, that they have had reports that show that this port will reach capacity well before the next decade is over. It will reach capacity very early on in the next decade. And that’s why it is an indictment frankly of the Barnett Government, and if anything represents that they are out of time and out of ideas it’s their failure to plan for the Outer Harbour, planning for the actual port itself, but also planning for the freight links to and from the port. They haven’t done it and it’s an indictment and it’s an example of very bad planning indeed. They skated along on the basis of projects like Gateway WA, 80 per cent funded by the former Federal Labor Government; projects like Perth City Link; projects like the Great Eastern Highway; projects that kept jobs and kept activity here in Perth and in the suburbs to our north and south. They simply have run out of ideas and it’s about time that the people of Western Australia got a government as good as the people themselves, and that’s a Labor Government led by Mark McGowan. Thank you.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.