Where’s our infrastructure funding, Malcolm?

Published on Wed 15 February 2017 3:38pm

There has been two-fifths of nothing for the people of Western Australia—no public transport, no congestion-busting projects like Community Connect South, no properly delivered broadband, no investment in projects like the second stage of the floating dock.

Mr Wilson (3:38pm) — Proper infrastructure investment is vital. It is vital because it removes capacity constraints, it boosts productivity and it supports jobs in the short, medium and long term. It is particularly important in Western Australia at the moment because of the prevailing economic conditions. We are in recession in Western Australia. We have very, very high unemployment, and the unemployment is getting worse month by month. We need investment in infrastructure—any investment in infrastructure. Frankly, a bit of improper investment in infrastructure would not be too bad! We are getting nothing. Seventy-three out of the 78 road and rail projects promised by the coalition at the last election went elsewhere. Five came to WA. Four per cent came to Western Australia. The Regional Jobs and Investment Package, announced last week, is specifically intended to deal with areas facing economic transition and unemployment. There is $220 million for 10 projects—not a single one for Western Australia, even though parts of Western Australia that would be eligible under that program have three times the unemployment of some of the areas that received funding.

What makes this all the more bitter if you are from Western Australia is that we were told by the member for Warringah, when he was the Prime Minister, that he would be the ‘Infrastructure Prime Minister’. That was to be his epithet. That was what would ring down the ages.

Well, good government has not started yet in Western Australia, and good state government there will not start until 11 March, at the earliest. But, as the member for Grayndler pointed out, the infrastructure spend under this federal government, in its best quarter, is lower than the lowest quarter of infrastructure spending under the former Labor government. It is meant to be a government for jobs and growth. Unemployment is higher under this government. Growth has been lower under this government. In Western Australia we have had 23 months of falling full-time employment. We are in recession, and inequality is at a 75-year high.

The Prime Minister might not be aware—his answer at the dispatch box today gave every impression that he is not aware—of what is going on in Western Australia. He has not been to WA in six months. So we get the double whammy. We get the invisible gifts of the ‘Infrastructure Prime Minister’ and we get the incredible dissolving promises of the ‘Public Transport Premier’, a Premier who went to the ballot box in the past promising the Ellenbrook rail extension, which has not been delivered, and promising MAX Light Rail, which has not been delivered.

So for us in Western Australia, as I said at the beginning, it is not really about whether or not you invest properly in infrastructure; it is about whether you invest at all. There has been two-fifths of nothing for the people of Western Australia—no public transport, no congestion-busting projects like Community Connect South, no properly delivered broadband, no investment in projects like the second stage of the floating dock. The only prospect of funding we have is in the horrible, ridiculous, monstrous shape of the Perth Freight Link, and you would struggle to find a better example of improperly planned and provided infrastructure funding than that ridiculous road.

An opposition member: Maybe the East West Link!

Maybe the East West Link. It is the most expensive road in WA’s history, a privately operated toll road that does not even reach the port, a road that goes nowhere, a road that came out of nowhere. When it was announced in the 2014 federal budget, the parliamentary secretary for transport in Western Australia 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 …

When the then Labor spokesperson, the wonderful Ken Travers, asked whether the Commonwealth had had any conversations about the Perth Freight Link with the WA government, the Western Australian spokesman said:

Maybe that is a question you should be asking a Commonwealth government representative.

Today the Prime Minister and the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport came to the dispatch box, and what did they know about the Perth Freight Link? They knew two things: they knew the dollar figure and they knew the name—and some of the time they did not even get the name right. That is all they know about the most expensive road project in Western Australia’s history, the only project that has any Commonwealth infrastructure funds attached to it. We have copped, for too long, state and federal coalition governments that have failed to invest in infrastructure in WA properly or at all. We have copped state and federal coalition governments that take Western Australia for granted. This week we are seeking long-overdue reform to so-called parliamentary entitlements. We desperately need reform to the sense of entitlement the coalition has in relation to Western Australia.

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