COMMITTEE REPORT: INQUIRY INTO THE DECISION TO FUND THE PERTH FREIGHT LINK
May 04, 2016
RURAL AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS AND TRANSPORT REFERENCES COMMITTEE
3rd May 2016 MEDIA RELEASE
Committee report: inquiry into the decision to fund the Perth Freight Link project
The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee has tabled its report from its inquiry into the decision to fund the Perth Freight link, which is slated to cost at least $1.9 billion in public funding from federal and state governments.
The report examines in detail the Commonwealth decision to commit $1.2 billion to fund the project: $925 million announced in the Abbott government's 2014-15 Budget; and a further $250 million announced by Prime Minister Turnbull in early April 2016.
The committee received 228 submissions for this inquiry, mostly from concerned individuals, community organisations and peak bodies who will be profoundly affected by the Link's construction. The committee also held two public hearings in Western Australia - in Fremantle on 12 October 2015 and Kwinana on 23 March 2016.
The evidence received by the committee was almost unanimously critical of the decision to fund the Freight Link project, seeing it as hastily designed, fundamentally flawed and not fit-for-purpose. This evidence showed the project will cost far more than forecast by its Business Case, especially as this case does not consider the necessary $500 million of improvements to the bridge over the Swan River, which already struggles with volumes of traffic heading into Fremantle.
The committee notes that almost two years after its announcement the Freight Link has not yet started construction, as it has been stalled by environmental and heritage challenges currently before the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
This presents an ideal opportunity for the Commonwealth to reconsider its support for this fundamentally flawed and badly designed project. The committee's report has seven recommendations, including that the Commonwealth:
- withdraws its support for the Freight Link project, re-committing the project's total federal funding of $1.2 billion to the development and implementation of future Western Australian freight infrastructure projects;
- works collaboratively with state government to identify and develop future projects that will best meet the long-term infrastructure needs of Western Australia, and that these projects are supported by fully developed and publically released Business Cases that are submitted to Infrastructure Australia for assessment;
- releases the full Business Case for the Freight Link, as assessed by Infrastructure Australia, to provide transparency on the project's proposed economic and social benefits;
- works with Infrastructure Australia and the Western Australian government to identify rail and traffic management strategies to expedite freight movement around the current Fremantle Port facilities;
- undertakes a full analysis of the costs and benefits of investing in a second port at Kwinana, as outlined by the City of Kwinana's Indian Ocean Gateway proposal; and
- ensures that Infrastructure Australia assesses the City of Kwinana's Indian Ocean Gateway proposal for inclusion on its Infrastructure Priority List.
- the Auditor-General should undertake a formal investigation into the systemic failure of the Commonwealth's planning and assessment of road and freight transport infrastructure, including the Perth Freight Link project.
The final recommendation reflects the committee's suspicion that the Perth Freight Link debacle is indicative of a more widespread systemic deficiency in the Commonwealth's planning for Australia's infrastructure needs, in light of the Melbourne's disastrous East-West Link and Sydney's ongoing WestConnex debacle.
The full report is available for download at the committee's website at: www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Rural_and_Regional_Affairs_and_Transport/Perth_Freight_Link