Malcolm Turnbull and Anthony Albanese have gone toe-to-toe in Canberra over WA Government plans to spend $1.2 billion of federal money on an urban rail project, instead of a toll road.
WA Premier Mark McGowan, whose Labor Party won the state election in a landslide on March 11, has moved to cancel Roe 8, the first stage of the controversial Perth Freight Link toll road.
McGowan wants to take the federal funding already given to WA for the PFL, and instead spend it on WA Labor’s Metronet program, which will develop a number of new urban rail projects around the Perth region.
But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been adamant that the funding may not be repurposed.
Shadow transport minister Anthony Albanese used the first session of Federal Parliament since the state election to question the PM over the issue.
“Now that the results of the Western Australian election are so clear, will the Prime Minister listen to Western Australians,” Albanese asked, “and finally dump your dud Perth Freight Link project and instead invest in the public transport Metronet project that Perth urgently needs?
“Or does the Prime Minister plan to punish Western Australia like he did Victoria, for having the temerity to vote Labor, by withholding $1.2 billion in federal infrastructure funding?”
Turnbull rejected Albanese’s stance, saying the PFL is an important project that the Federal Government’s independent advisory board, Infrastructure Australia, believes should go ahead.
“It is a matter for the Western Australian Government whether it wants to continue with the Perth Freight Link project, which is a very high priority project of Infrastructure Australia,” Turnbull said.
“If they are not going to build it then the money is obviously not required.
“As far as the Metronet project is concerned, we look forward to an application and will examine it on its merits, as I have advised the new premier.”
Speaking in a statement after the Parliamentary exchange, Albanese suggested the prime minister’s position displayed a lack of respect for West Australian voters.
“Today in Question Time Mr Turnbull refused to recognise the judgement of voters,” Albanese said.
“The future of the Perth Freight Link was a key issue in the WA election and the judgement of voters could not have been clearer.
“West Australians want better public transport to address traffic congestion.
“Mr Turnbull should respect their judgement.”