Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
GARETH PARKER: Senator Mathias Cormann is the Federal Finance Minister, he has been intimately involved in all of these negotiations along the way. He joins me on the program. Senator Cormann, good morning.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Good morning Gareth. Good morning to your listeners.
GARETH PARKER: Why the change of heart?
MATHIAS CORMANN: After the State election earlier in March we sat down with the State Government in Western Australia, as you would expect us to do, and we had discussions on how we could achieve the best possible outcome for Western Australia. There were certain things that we were keen to see happen. We accept and recognise that the McGowan State Government in Western Australia is not going to build the Perth Freight Link project over the next four years. The alternative would have been not to invest that $1.2 billion in road and rail infrastructure funding over the next four years. We did not think that would be a good outcome for Western Australia. We decided to work with the State Government in Western Australia on getting the best possible package together, which we negotiated over the last two months or so. But, as a Federal Government, we remain committed to the Perth Freight Link project. What we are saying is that if any future State Government in Western Australia intends to build it, we stand ready to work with them to deliver that.
GARETH PARKER: So what were the threats before the State Election all about? Were they just empty posturing?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I leave the political commentary to you. In the lead up to an election, different sides of politics compete with each other. But after an election, after the people of Western Australia at a state level, or the people of Australia at a national level have spoken, it is incumbent on all of us who have been given the privilege to serve and the privilege to take responsibility, to sit down and achieve the best possible outcomes. That is what we have focused on here. We have focused on achieving the best possible outcomes for Western Australia over the next four years. That is really all that there is to it.
GARETH PARKER: My guest on the program is the Federal Finance Minister, Senator Mathias Cormann. Roe 8 is gone, the Perth Freight Link is gone, at least for the duration of Mark McGowan’s tenure in power. Who knows if a future Liberal government might seek to revive it and who knows if a future Federal Government might be willing to fund it. But, for now, that project is gone and that money has been reallocated to a range of different projects around the city. Seventeen in all, and a bit in Bunbury as well, with planning for an outer ring road. Senator Mathias Cormann, you said that the decision is taken in the best interest of the people of Western Australia, are you disappointed to lose the Roe 8 project?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Everybody knows that the Federal Government was very committed to it. I was and am personally very committed to it. Infrastructure Australia has identified it as the highest priority project, nationally, not under construction. There is no doubt that it would have delivered significant benefits for Western Australia. But we have to be pragmatic. The current State Government is not going to proceed with it. I wish that the previous State government had got cracking faster. They had three years to build the Perth Freight Link project, it was not built ... interrupted
GARETH PARKER: So was that why the project was lost?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The previous State government had the funding available since the 2014-15 Budget. We would have certainly have liked to see it built more quickly. But it was not built, it will not be built. So we made a decision based on what other priority projects across Western Australia we could deliver together with the McGowan Government. That is why we made the decisions that were announced yesterday.
GARETH PARKER: So have you salvaged anything in this, Senator Cormann? Perhaps and I am thinking specifically of the Murdoch Drive connection with the Kwinana Freeway?
MATHIAS CORMANN: There were some things that were very important to us. We have been able to reach an agreement with the State Government in relation to those. One of them was to ensure better access to the Fiona Stanley Hospital precinct, by getting better access from Roe Highway and the Kwinana Freeway into that broader Murdoch Activity Centre precinct. The State Government has agreed with this. That is about $100 million. We have also been able to deliver additional funding for regional road safety initiatives, to the tune of about $44.2 million. The planning work for the Bunbury ring road that you mentioned. The Manning Road on-ramp to the Kwinana Freeway and various other projects across the city, which are very keen Federal Government priorities. Overall, this is a very good package. We are now supporting a $2.3 billion road and rail infrastructure package together, the State and the Federal Government together. This is a very good outcome for Western Australia.
GARETH PARKER: Well listeners, let me know, what do you think. Are you happy with seeing one very large project disappear for a range of smaller projects to be funded instead. I would be interested to know your view on this, because there is no doubt that the Roe 8 issue was very high profile, very contentious. We talked about it a lot in the lead up the campaign. It is gone. This is what is replacing it. Senator Cormann, can I just ask you quickly in relation to the Metronet funding, there is a $1.2 billion envelope of funding there. You are suggesting that the various Metronet projects will still have to have business cases developed and will still have to go to Infrastructure Australia. What if they do not size up?
MATHIAS CORMANN: The State Government and the Federal Government are both suggesting that. It is not as if this is something that we are unilaterally suggesting. It is always the case that projects of a particular magnitude, before they can attract federal funding in particular, have to go through that rigorous process. That is business as usual. I do not think that the State Government is expecting this not to happen. The process has got to take its course. But I am working on the assumption that the businesses cases will come back positive and that they will get the tick of approval and will proceed.
GARETH PARKER: Alright Senator, thanks for your time today.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Always good to talk to you.