Premier Mark McGowan and leader of the opposition Dr Mike Nahan fired shots at each other following the federal government’s agreement to provide WA with $1.6 billion for Labor’s road and rail projects.
As part of the federal government’s 2018-19 budget, WA will receive $1.6 billion in funding for the infrastructure projects, supported by a further $745 million by the state government.
The funding was given for Labor’s projects replacing the scrapped Perth Freight Link.
The election promise to can the project was contentious at the time and following Labor’s victory in March, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned that funding which had been allocated for the freight link would not be reallocated for alternative projects under the new government.
However, last week as part of the Federal Government’s 2018-19 budget a backflip on that warning gave Labor the green light to proceed with planned road and rail works.
These include funding for projects including creating an entry to Fiona Stanley Hospital and Murdoch Activity Centre from Kwinana Freeway and Roe Highway ($100 million); creating an on-ramp to the freeway from Manning Road ($35 million); widening Karel Avenue between Farrington Road to Berrigan Drive ($15 million); and extending Leach Highway through High Street from Carrington Street to Stirling Highway ($118 million).
The Premier praised the funding agreement and said 6000 new jobs would be created in WA and “thousands more” would come as a result of Metronet.
However, opposition leader Dr Nahan said Mr McGowan had played a dangerous game with WA jobs in order to secure funding for his own “pet projects”.
“The Commonwealth couldn’t afford to allow jobs to be killed, and so made the right decision to redirect the funding,” he said.
“The difference between the governments is stark – Premier McGowan only wants jobs and investment if he gets his pet projects, whereas the Commonwealth Government was pragmatic and looked at job creation as a priority.”
Dr Nahan said the claim 6000 new jobs would be created was misleading as scrapping the Perth freight link had cost 3000 jobs.
He also criticised the government’s announcement it would fund upgrades to High Street in Fremantle and Karel Avenue widening, something he claimed would not be necessary if the freight link had been kept.
However, Mr McGowan said Dr Nahan “must be the only person in the state that doesn’t believe (the federal funding) was a good deal for WA.”
He said the government was elected on a platform of scrapping the freight link and Dr Nahan should accept it.
“Western Australians voted overwhelmingly to scrap the Perth Freight Link. We are getting on with the job and doing what we promised,” he said.
“We went to the election promising new job creating and congestion busting projects and that’s exactly what we are doing.”
Mr McGowan said Labor had pledged to extend Leach Highway as part of its election pledges in 2016 but did not mention Dr Nahan’s comments about widening Karel Avenue.