Subjects: Infrastructure; Perth Freight Link; public transport; WA state election; minor parties
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s great to be here with my friend and parliamentary colleague Rita Saffioti, the Shadow Minister for Transport here in Western Australia and we’re here at the first stage of what is now known as Northlink. It was of course known, when we announced its funding, as the Swan Valley Bypass, in our 2013 Budget. It was just the latest of infrastructure projects that Federal Labor provided support for here in the West. Whether it was road projects like Gateway WA, Western Australia’s largest ever road project; whether it be the Great Eastern Highway widening; whether it be the works around Bunbury or around Esperance Port; or whether it be the work on the Great Northern Highway, including the Muchea to Wubin area or the Bindi Bindi Curves; or whether it be the North West Coastal Highway or rail projects like the Perth City Link project. Federal Labor invested here in Western Australia and what we want to do is to partner with WA Labor because frankly, since the change of office federally, the WA Coalition Government have joined with the Federal Coalition in inaction.
You’ve seen the Gateway WA project, where they have tried to claim it over and over again. Here, with Northlink, giving a project a new name does not make it a new project and this is a project that was funded by the Federal Labor Government after considerable lobbying by local government here in this part of Perth.
It’s about time that Western Australia got its fair share of infrastructure investment and yet the Barnett Government has been prepared to cop, for example, the $500 million cut that was here in the 2014 Budget of Tony Abbott and Malcom Turnbull for public transport projects. And what we’ve seen is that every single major project that has been underway is a project that was initiated when the former Labor Government was in office. So nothing happening under the WA Coalition or indeed under the Federal Coalition, of course except for the disastrous and badly planned Perth Freight Link project proposal – a road to nowhere, a road to nowhere through a wetland to a port, or it doesn’t even get to the port, that is almost at full capacity and not work on projects like the Outer Harbour or the other works that we want to combine with WA Labor to deal with.
Every study that has been done has shown that increasingly Perth’s roads are congested and they will be into the future unless we deal with that challenge of urban congestion and you can’t deal it without a plan for public transport. Through the METRONET project which Federal Labor will support and WA Labor have been championing, it would go. It is the most important project to ensure that urban congestion is dealt with here in Perth.
RITA SAFFIOTI: I’ll just say a few words. The Northlink project is a demonstration of a Federal Government that actually works with the State Government and local councils. Northlink was a Federal Labor Government-funded project and one that the local City of Swan actually very much pushed. The Gateway project – another project funded by Federal Labor, and of course the Great Eastern Highway widening. These projects have been funded by Federal Labor. What we get from the Federal Liberal Government is a flawed project, a project that was dreamt up overnight and that doesn’t actually reach the port. What we need in WA is more funding for infrastructure like this and of course more funding for projects like METRONET and a Federal Government that works with state governments on joint priorities rather than on poor priorities that have been dreamt up overnight.
ALBANESE: I’ll take questions.
REPORTER: Mr Albanese, doesn’t Labor do the same thing – claiming credit for Liberal projects?
ALBANESE: The only Liberal project that has been announced since they’ve been in office is indeed the Perth Freight Link project, announced in 2014 in Tony Abbott’s first Budget. The WA Coalition Government at that time said that they weren’t in a position to make any public comment or to make any plans available and what you’ve seen since then, three years later, is scrambling to try and make an idea somehow add up, but still not be able to get freight to the port, which is the objective that was identified with this Perth Freight Link project with a Commonwealth contribution of over $1 billion. So Federal Labor certainly is happy to give ownership of that project to the Federal Coalition because we think it is a bad project. It doesn’t stack up. Roe 8 had previously been rejected because of the environmental issues associated with that bad project and because of the recognition that what we need to develop is the Outer Harbour at Kwinana, get that project going, and that there are other much more significant priorities for the great city of Perth.
REPORTER: What do you make of the Federal Government’s message that that money that’s committed for the freight link can’t go anywhere else, it has to be for the freight link?
ALBANESE: Well this is absurd. This is a Federal Government that announced this project in 2014 when there were no plans done, no environmental approvals, not even an application from the State Coalition Government for that particular project. Now, I was the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport for six years prior to the end of 2013. Not once was Perth Freight Link ever raised with the former Federal Labor Government as being a project that should receive Federal Government funding and nothing has happened in the Perth Freight Link except for, at the last minute, a contract signed for one stage. The Federal Government said unless it is all organised with a plan to the port, then it wouldn’t be worthy of federal funding. Now they have changed that in order to try and prop up the Barnett Government which, quite frankly, is showing all the signs of a government at the end of its life.
Now this is a bad project. The Federal Government should act in a mature way and should be funding projects that stack up, whether they be road or rail projects. Malcolm Turnbull became the Prime Minister saying he would be different from Tony Abbott. We funded when we were in government a vital project like Perth City Link and I was pleased to be there at the announcement of the funding and there at the opening. Malcolm Turnbull said that he would fund public transport. All we’ve seen is him taking selfies on trains. What Malcolm Turnbull needs to do is to actually fund trains. He could start by following Labor’s lead – abandoning the dud project that is Perth Freight Link and funding Perth METRONET in order to deal with urban congestion in this growing city.
REPORTER: How important is a Labor win in WA for Federal Labor?
ALBANESE: Well we think that it is important not for Federal Labor – we think it is important for the people of this great state of Western Australia. They have a government that has run out of ideas. They have a government that is presiding over rising unemployment, falling economic growth and a slowing economy so it is actually contacting and a government that is out of ideas. We think that Mark and his team will serve the people of Western Australia first and foremost and, as someone who is passionate about infrastructure and transport issues, as well as tourism issues, I want to see a Government in Western Australia that is as good as the people of Western Australia and they deserve a Labor Government.
REPORTER: Former One Nation senator Rod Culleton is in Canberra at the moment trying to keep his position via the High Court – he’s another One Nation MP who left the party. How do you think One Nation will go in Western Australia given their bad track record of MPs staying in the party?
ALBANESE: Well I think the experience of former senator Culleton, and now it is unclear who will replace former senator Culleton in the WA Senate, should give the people of Western Australia pause for thought if they are thinking of casting their vote for a minor party candidate. The alternative to the Barnett Government is a Labor Government – a Labor Government with a strong team. I have known Rita Saffioti for many years, since before she entered the Parliament, and I think the team that is here is ready to lead in Western Australia with a strong leader in Mark McGowan and a strong team of parliamentary performers, but also very strong candidates and I am very pleased to be here to support them and to support the sort of ideas that are necessary for Western Australia. I tell you what – a Labor Government in WA, regardless of who is in office in Canberra, wouldn’t countenance the sort of stupid idea and thought bubble of the Perth Freight Link when there are so many important needs on infrastructure here throughout the West.
REPORTER: Do you think that recent events in the US will give people pause for thought when they might have thought of lodging protest vote, a reactionary vote? Maybe they will stick with the major parties.
ALBANESE: Well, I believe that people should vote for parties of government in the lower houses because that is where government is formed and the track record of minor parties in recent times – we of course had a Palmer United Party Senator elected here in Western Australia as well and that experience of the Palmer United Party led to them from being a significant party into one that no longer exists effectively anywhere around the country. I think people in Western Australia, if they want a change of government if they if they acknowledge that the Barnett Government is out of steam – and after all Colin Barnett’s own colleagues tried to get rid of him last year in acknowledgement that his time was up – the alternative is a Labor Government led by Mark McGowan with a very strong team.
REPORTER: Although something similar happened to Mark McGowan earlier in the year with one of your former colleagues, Stephen Smith.
ALBANESE: Well Mark McGowan has the strong support of WA Labor and also has the strong support of people such as myself and others in our team in Canberra who know that he is someone who we look forward to working with and will make an enormous difference to Western Australia.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.