WA Labor has vowed to scrap the “deeply flawed” $1.9 billion Perth Freight Link if it wins the March election, but the state government says it’s a reckless move that will cost jobs and throw away federal funding.
Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said on Wednesday the recently signed Roe 8 contract would be renegotiated immediately upon Labor forming government, freeing up $1.7 billion in funding for more worthy “congestion-busting” projects with $236 million to be used on three other projects.
Labor will also start planning an outer harbour at Kwinana to complement Fremantle Port, which will reach capacity in 10 years.
The legal advice Labor received from former WA solicitor-general Grant Donaldson indicated renegotiating the Roe 8 contract would incur a modest cost.
Mr McGowan described the project as a “monumental waste of money” that made no sense in terms of planning, the economy or the environment, and called on Premier Colin Barnett to halt work until March.
The Perth Freight Link has become a key election issue and Mr McGowan said the public had a choice between supporting Labor’s comprehensive plan or the Liberals’ short-sighted road to nowhere.
But Transport Minister Bill Marmion said Labor had a “silly idea” and the cost of breaking the contract would be about $40 million.
Deputy Premier Liza Harvey said Mr McGowan’s plan was his most reckless decision yet and insisted the Perth Freight Link would ease congestion.
Ms Harvey said Labor would be throwing away $1.2 billion worth of federal government investment, which is tied to the project, and 3360 jobs would be lost.
But Mr McGowan said he expected the Commonwealth to back WA Labor, just as they supported the Victorian Labor government’s decision to scrap the East-West project.
“We would expect and in fact demand that the Commonwealth respect the will of the people of Western Australia,” he told reporters.
Labor will take $236 million from the Perth Freight Link to spend on three projects, with some funding already previously assigned, and Mr McGowan said they would create jobs.
This would include bringing forward funding for the $145 million Armadale Road dual carriageway between Anstey Road and Tapper Road, $166 million for the Armadale Road Bridge, and $95 million to build two new overpasses on Wanneroo Road.
The Greens’ Lynn MacLaren said it should not have taken a looming election for the ALP to make its position on the Perth Freight Link clear, but she supported the decision.
City of Cockburn mayor Logan Howlett said the city and thousands of Roe 8 protesters were delighted, adding that the council had maintained its strong stance against the wanton destruction of the wetlands and banksia woodlands, and the adverse impact on Aboriginal culture and heritage.
The project has also been part of an ongoing legal battle involving the Save Beeliar Wetlands group, with a hearing scheduled for Friday in the Federal Court, following a lost bid in the High Court.
In the meantime, the group says an agreement has been reached to have no more clearing work done until Monday.
“We are seeking an injunctive relief against any recommencement of the construction of Roe 8, which may lead to irreversible impacts such as clearing,” group convenor Kate Kelly said.
Roe 8 would extend Roe Highway from Jandakot to Coolbellup, passing through the wetlands, and is part of the Perth Freight Link, which is designed to get freight to Fremantle Port.
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