Transcript Press Conference Perth

Subjects: The High Street upgrade in Fremantle, the allocation of community sports grants, and bushfire relief.

MARK MCGOWAN:
Thanks very much, everyone. Very excited today to be able to start work on the High Street upgrade here in Fremantle. This is a 1.5 kilometre road. It will create 700 jobs. Its $118 million of investment by the state and commonwealth governments, and it’s going to fix a major bottleneck right here through Fremantle.

We all know that along this stretch of road here on High Street there has been some accidents over the last five years – around 280 accidents over the last five years. What this is going to do is better separate the traffic and also ensure that there’s a far easier turn onto Stirling Highway. So it will dramatically improve the operations of this road for both trucks and commuters alike, and it will ensure that there's a major improvement, a major safety improvement, right here.

The other thing that’s happening, of course, is we're putting in pedestrian underpasses. So if you're going to the netball courts over here, which are one of the two most popular netball facilities in Western Australia, you'll be able to walk under the road not across the road. So it will dramatically improve safety for kids and parents alike going to sporting events. 

This is a massive improvement to road safety and transport here in the southern suburbs, in the vicinity of Fremantle Talked about for many decades, it's finally now underway. We expect this will be open and completed in 2021. This comes on top of all of the other road works and rail works we're doing around Western Australia. 

We have a road and rail boom going on in Western Australia today, that is creating jobs and setting up our state for the long-term future. We don't want to play catch up, like Melbourne and Sydney do, where it cost countless billions of dollars to fix the situation that should have been fixed decades before. We are ahead of the game in Western Australia, building rail, building roads, setting up the state for the long-term future and making sure we create jobs in the process. These are visionary projects; they'll set up our state for many decades to come, Metronet and road projects all over Western Australia. And even today, we saw that when the Kwinana freeway upgrades are completed there will be significant cuts in transit times for people from the outer northern and outer southern suburbs. So, all of those improvements are making a huge difference to people across Western Australia. 

Can I thank the Federal Government for their contribution to this project. This is a joint state-federal project, it shows we have worked cooperatively together to build road and rail across Western Australia, and I look forward to that continuing. I'll hand over to the Minister.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thank you Premier, Minister Saffioti, and the other state members here. This is another great joint state-federal project. We are putting in the majority of the money; $74 million of the $118 million project here and, overall, the federal government is investing $5.4 billion into Western Australia over the next four years alone.

This particular project is about safety, it's about jobs, and it's about getting people home sooner. Safety, the Premier as mentioned there has been over 280 accidents on this section of the road alone in the last five years, including truck turnovers. And so that will be dramatically improved, as it will be improved for the pedestrians who are crossing this road.

From a jobs perspective, 700 jobs will be created during the construction phase of this project alone. And of course, by making the road more efficient it adds to the productive capacity of the economy overall. Now, the Federal Government has a massive infrastructure program going on across the country as we speak, supporting 80,000 jobs already. This is a further 700 jobs on top of that. And obviously getting people home sooner by making the road networks more efficient. Again, I would like to thank the State Government for their cooperative approach to dealing with these particular projects, particularly Minister Saffioti, she and I worked together very closely in relation to projects like this. It will be a great project. It’s being done quickly – in 18 months, it will be completed – and it's going to make a real difference to the lives of people down in this part of Western Australian.

RITA SAFFIOTI:
Thank you.

Can I thank the federal minister and also the federal government for their partnership in this project. Can I also thank the City of Fremantle for their work working with the state government in getting this project to this stage. Many of you would be aware of this project. This has been off and on for over a decade, but we are now at a project that is starting construction and will deliver significant benefits. This is a project we committed to at the election, and as has been outlined, there will be massive safety improvements. A number of other key features will be the local access road to the north side of High Street, which will allow the residents to use a local access road to get to their homes. There will also be more parking and better access for netball, and we have seen the thousands of people that come to the netball every weekend. There will be a new roundabout at Stirling Highway and there will be a new bypass lane for vehicles traveling through to Fremantle.

As has also been noted, it's undulating, and so we'll be flattening the land too, to reduce those slopes and make it safer for trucks. So this is a really, really good project for WA; for the freight industry but also for the local residents. As I said, it's a complex project and we've worked really well with the community. Two new underpasses have been added in as part of our consultation. We're retaining many of the trees in the area, the trees will form a part of the new median strip.

So it will make it far more efficient and safe in this area. It's a key election commitment, and can I thank Main Roads so far for their work in consulting with the community, and also Georgiou as the contracting company undertaking the project. So far, this project has been managed very well and we expect to see it up and running early next year. So a great project for WA, a great project for Fremantle and for the local area, and another election commitment that we committed to being delivered and a great partnership with the federal government.

BRAD PETTIT:
I'd also like to thank both the federal government and the state government for this. This is a really important project for Fremantle. It would be fair to say that it has been one of the key both safety and congestion points that has plagued this area for decades. And what's really exciting about this is we’ve got an outcome that is, I think, really good for the freight industry but also really good for local residents. In fact, there was a really, I think, a quite innovative design process, where Main Roads actually worked with the local community to come up with some of the key design elements around retaining trees, pedestrian underpasses and some other elements that I think have really seen this project have some really strong local support.

It's going to be a good project and it’s going to make a really important change to this area and really looking forward to seeing it going ahead over the next 18 months. Thank you.

JOURNALIST:
With this project and the other freeway upgrades, when can people expect to actually start benefiting from reduced travel times?

RITA SAFFIOTI:
Yeah along the freeway, we'll see some real benefits flow in second half of this year. But there are a number of projects across the network; as we've seen the we’ve got the freeway upgrades, both south and north, we've got the Murdoch Drive connection which will be completed soon. Across the suburbs, the Tonkin Highway connection to Muchea will be opening in the next month. The Wanneroo Road overpasses will be opening at the end of this year. So I think by the end of this year people will see the true significance of the projects that have been undertaken, and the savings to their time – savings in their precious family time. And what we're seeing is upgrades across the entire suburban network in partnership with the federal government. So there will be, of course, further disruption because of the Metronet projects really being underway and other new road projects as well, as we keep rolling them out.

But what we'll start seeing by the end of this year is significant time savings and reduced congestion over the network.

In relation to the freeway, the level of work on the freeway is unprecedented. That level work hasn't been seen for over a decade. So it really is much needed infrastructure, short term pain but long term gain. And what we'll see is much more free flowing, a reduction in many of the bottlenecks. And of course with smart freeways the introduction of technology used in other states, such as in Melbourne and in Sydney – new technology being applied to our freeway to better inform drivers about how to travel in the fastest possible way. 

JOURNALIST:
Premier, can I ask you a question on another matter?

MARK MCGOWAN:
Sure but you want to finish with this one first? 

Just in closing I forgot to thank the builders, Georgiou, for coming on board. A very good Western Australian company who won this contract and I'm sure they'll do an outstanding job. And obviously just to reflect to one of your questions: Look there's a lot of roadworks going on, we know that. And we know a lot of people find it frustrating. But you know, there's no gain without pain, and the gains will be enormous once these road works are finished. 

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JOURNALIST:
Minister Tudge, can I just ask you: was it appropriate for Bridget McKenzie to approve an award, a grant, to the Wangaratta Clay Target Shooting Club – a club of which she was a member? Should she resign in relation to that revelation today?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well, as you know, every single decision which she had made had been assessed as being eligible for receiving money. And in relation to her honorary membership, which she had received from that club, she wasn't obliged to disclose that under the senate rules, and so she continued to make the decisions in accordance with the rules, and she's outlined those very clearly. 

JOURNALIST:
Are you generally saying that that’s appropriate? How can you say that that's appropriate?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well, there's rules in the Senate as to what you need to disclose and what you don't. In this instance, the value of the membership was well under $300 and so you don't have to disclose memberships which are below that amount. 

JOURNALIST:
She was a member of the club and she awarded a grant to the club.

ALAN TUDGE:
I think she had been made an honorary member of the club. 

JOURNALIST:
As a member.

ALAN TUDGE:
She hadn't had to disclose the membership because of the senate rules and she's made that clear.

JOURNALIST:
Do you agree with those rules?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well they are the senate rules. They apply to all of us. For the house of reps, we have to disclose as well if we receive any gifts. You do that if they’re above a certain amount of money.

JOURNALIST:
[inaudible]

ALAN TUDGE:
But I just reconfirmed, as well, that every single decision that she had made in relation to those grants had been assessed as being eligible to receive payments. I mean, just in this electorate alone I think there's four clubs in it that received payments under that scheme and that will make a big difference to those clubs to support, particularly, female participation and female change rooms, which is so necessary right across the country. 

JOURNALIST:
We’re asking about this particular grant, and do you think that with general public, that that kind of technical argument really washes with the general public?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well, I’ve provided my answer to that.

JOURNALIST:
She just took it on herself to prioritise, didn't she? With advice? 

ALAN TUDGE:
She acted within the rules, on the advice. The advice said that every single…

JOURNALIST:
From the Prime Minister’s office?

ALAN TUDGE:
That every single club where money was allocated was eligible underneath the rules, and she did so in accordance with the rules. As the Prime Minister has said, there's been the ANAO report, it has recommendations. We’ll take those recommendations seriously. The Prime Minister has reiterated that several times and I've given my answer to that question already.

JOURNALIST:
Should she keep her job?

ALAN TUDGE:
Yes, of course she should.

JOURNALIST:
There's concerns that relief to bushfire victims isn't getting through as quickly as it could or it should. Do you have concerns about that?

ALAN TUDGE:
Certainly, in relation to the payments getting to individuals, they are going through very quickly. And I know from speaking to Stuart Robert, the responsible Minister in relation to that, a person can actually ring up on the phone, they will be answered within 10 seconds typically. They can do the entire application over the phone, and typically within half an hour they will have payments into their bank account. 

Now, we've just announced, also, huge support for small businesses in those areas, of grants of up to $50,000 as well as loans of up to $500,000. Now, they will go through the state assessment processes to determine those and there is a formal process, which the state governments are used to doing for those. In addition to that, there is obviously a lot of money, which has been donated by the public very generously, over five $500 million worth, and we obviously want to see those charitable organisations working constructively in cooperation with the state and federal governments as well to get the money out on the ground. 

JOURNALIST:
But do you have concerns that there are delays in that area? On some areas?

ALAN TUDGE:
I haven't received such advice. I'm not the responsible minister in relation to that. Those charities, many of them, are on the ground right now and working cooperatively with state and federal governments on the ground, doing the best they can. I think there is an enormous goodwill in the broader community. I think there is huge amounts of work, which has been undertaken by state and federal governments. Obviously the Australian Defence Force has 6500 people now who have been called up and are working to assist with the recovery efforts, and I think they do provide a great deal of comfort to people. But this is going to be a long journey and I think it'll be a couple of years’ worth of work for these communities to fully recover, just as it was after the Black Saturday bushfires, which I'm very familiar with because it’s near my patch back home, and it did take a couple of years for full recovery.

JOURNALIST:
There’s a lot of private Roe 8 signs along the road here. Is that something that you think the government needs to take notice of still?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well, I think everybody knows the federal government's position in relation to that. I think everybody knows the premier's position in relation to that. And today, we're talking about a project which we're jointly working on, which we're jointly funding, and it's one of a number of projects which we’re jointly funding and we just want to get on with it.