WA short-changed: minister

WA Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan claims Western Australia is being short-changed by the Federal Government for fails to invest in vital infrastructure such as roads and ports.

WA Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan claims Western Australia is being short-changed by the Federal Government for fails to invest in vital infrastructure such as roads and ports.

MacTiernan said the recent announcement by the Federal Government that Queensland would receive a further $2billion in funding was another clear example of the Commonwealth’s continued neglect of this State.

“Time and again, the Federal Coalition has demonstrated that its vision does not extend west of the Nullarbor,” MacTiernan said.

“I have said it in the past and I’ll say it again: when it comes to Federal Government funding, WA doesn’t get its fair share.

“WA is the engine room of the nation’s economy earning the Federal Government close to $30billion in taxes and royalties, but only $24billion comes back in funds and services.

“WA’s vital infrastructure needs are continually being ignored by the Federal Government, while at the same time billions of dollars are skimmed off from the WA economy to fill Canberra’s coffers.

“A greater commitment to infrastructure is needed for this State to keep pace with its dramatic growth in exports and mining activity.

“One of the principles proposed for the Auslink 2 Program is the sharing of project costs but no provision of additional funding from the Federal Government for project cost increases and cost escalation, which is completely unrealistic in today’s heated construction market.

“As a result, the State is forced to fund the project cost increases and cost escalation so that the road infrastructure needs demanded by the public are met. However, taking such action means that other State road priorities are starved of funds due to the Federal Government’s neglect.

“The State Government already has to subsidise urgent maintenance works on the AusLink National network to the tune of about $15million per year, due to the Federal Government’s ongoing neglect for road maintenance.

“The result of the State being forced to pick up the tab for the Commonwealth’s neglect of transport infrastructure in WA is that we have less State funds available for important improvement works on our own road network. Western Australian road users are being disadvantaged by Canberra’s neglect.”

The Minister said that project cost-sharing was also not always equitable.

“The State is required to contribute $460 million towards the $630 million cost of the new Perth-Bunbury Highway project, substantially more than the 50 per cent cost-sharing arrangement with the Federal Government that was initially proposed,” MacTiernan said.

“In terms of strategic significance, this corridor compares more than favourably with the Goodna Bypass in the western suburbs of Brisbane, to which the Federal Government has committed to fund the entire $2.3billion.

“It is a case of do as I say and not as I do; they are clearly breaking their own rules by forcing State and Territory Governments to contribute to the costs of new projects and then wholly funding others for their own political gain.

“The Federal Government also recently announced that it would fund the entire cost of a major planning and engineering assessment of the best route for a motorway connection over the Blue Mountains in NSW and has allocated $20million for this work. Contrast this with WA where the Federal Government has rejected an application for funds to assist with the planning of a major upgrading of the AusLink network around Port Hedland, claiming this is the State Government’s responsibility.

“The reality is that in terms of this State, the Commonwealth is trying to shift its responsibilities rather than pull its weight.

“The WA Government has been investing vast sums of money into State strategic roads such as the Mitchell Freeway extension ($171.5million), Roe Highway Stage 4 to 7 ($110million); Geraldton Southern Transport Corridor Stage 1 ($88million), Karratha-Tom Price Road Stages 1 and 2 ($150million), Tonkin Highway extension ($155million) and Mt Magnet-Leinster Road ($64million).

“It is time the Federal Government contributes its funding share on the WA AusLink National Network.

“In addition to ongoing funding needs on the AusLink national network, the State needs Commonwealth funding to upgrade road and rail facilities at WA’s eight regional ports; restore the State’s grain freight rail network following a failed privatisation scheme under the Court Government; upgrade Brand and North West Coastal Highways which service oil, gas and other resource sectors; and improve the city to Perth airport section of Great Eastern Highway.

“Contrast this apathy with Federal Labor Leader Kevin Rudd’s proposal to set up a WA Infrastructure Fund to meet the State’s needs using part of the revenue the Commonwealth receives from royalties. The proposed fund will be used to finance port access road needs.”

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