Barnett too slow on Freight Link: Cormann


THE federal Liberals are turning on their WA counterparts, with Finance Minister Mathias Cormann criticising the Barnett government for not delivering the $1.9 billion Perth Freight Link before being swept from office.

The WA government has secured $1.26 billion in federal funding for its flagship $2.5 billion Metronet project in a major expansion of Perth’s rail system. It represented an about-face from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who before the March election said the state would miss out.

Tuesday’s federal budget will deliver the $2.3-billion deal on Metronet and other WA road projects, which are expected to create 6000 jobs. The deal includes a top-up payment compensating WA for its low GST share, with the state getting a further $392 million in federal funds.

The Turnbull government’s change of heart is being viewed as a political move to calm voter anger in WA about the GST shortfall and follows Labor’s landslide win in the March election.

The federal money has been re-allocated from the PFL, a major road project aimed at better linking Fremantle Port with Perth’s industrial heartland.

The WA Liberal National government had signed contracts and begun land clearing at the Beeliar Wetlands, sparking protests and legal action by opponents.

Senator Cormann says the Barnett government should have done more work on the PFL because they secured the funding back in 2014-15.

“I was and am personally very committed to it, Infrastructure Australia had identified it as a highest priority project,” he told 6PR radio on Monday.

“I wish the previous state government had got cracking faster … we would have liked to see it built more quickly but it wasn’t built and now won’t be built.

“They had three years to build the Perth Freight Link project.”

But Senator Cormann says Metronet fits well with government’s Smart Cities Plan.

The funding is a windfall, given Labor’s Metronet funding model only included $416 million in commonwealth money along with $667 million from land sales and $267 million from “value capture and developer contributions”, the credibility of which had been questioned.

“A lot of people, the state Liberal party in particular, said the money won’t come, well it turns out that money has come and in fact more money has come,” a triumphant Mr McGowan said on Monday.

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