Transcript - Press Conference - Road Funding WA Wheatbelt - 27 March 2019
The Hon Melissa Price MP, Minister for the Environment
The Hon Mia Davies MP, Leader of The Nationals WA
Mr Rick Wilson MP, Member for O’Connor
Cr Gordon Houston, Shire President, Shire of Chittering
Cr Ricky Storer, Shire President, Shire of Koorda
Subjects: Productivity boost for WA Wheatbelt roads.
Welcome to our country. My name’s Gordon Houston, I’m the Shire President for the Shire of Chittering. Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands upon which we are meeting, the Yued people, and recognise their continuing cultural connection to the lands and waters of this country. I’d also like to pay our respect to their elders and their people both past, present and future.
I would like to acknowledge as part of the welcome the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, the Honourable Michael McCormack; Federal Minister for the Environment the Honourable Melissa Price; Leader of the National Party in WA, the Honourable Mia Davies and everybody else that’s here – there’s a plethora of political faces all over the place – and councillors one and all; Rick Storer, the Shire President of the Shire of Koorda who has organised this event and also the elected members representing the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Route Working Group and other elected members and guests.
Around 16 months ago, Councillor Ricky Storer, President of the Shire of Koorda and Chair of the Wheatbelt North Regional Roads Group, delivered a presentation outlining the proactive collective approach of Wheatbelt councils to regional freight challenges and the outcomes that would result from investment in secondary freight routes in the Wheatbelt. The Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Route Network in the main roads of the WA Wheatbelt region comprises about 4400 kilometres of local government-managed roads that connect with state and national highways to allow the larger vehicles to access our areas. He made that presentation in November 2017 at the Australian Local Government Association National Local Roads and Transport Congress. And the work prior and subsequent to that time, coordinated by the Wheatbelt Secondary Freight Route Working Group who are here today, has culminated today in our gathering at this site.
Without further ado, welcome to our country and I’ll hand over to Michael.
Thank you very much Gordon and it is great to be here. It’s great to be here with my federal and state colleagues, federal colleagues from the Liberal Party, state colleagues – and of course of big Nick Fardell behind me, Senate candidate for the Nationals – and my WA National Party state colleagues including Mia Davies, the WA Nats leader.
When it’s important to regional Liberals and National Party Members, it’s important to the community, it’s important to the nation and that’s why these secondary freight network roads in the Wheatbelt area are of critical importance. That’s why today we’re putting $70 million down to make sure that we work with the State Government but moreover make sure we get better roads. Certainly, this area punches well above its weight when it comes to mining, when it comes to agriculture, when it comes to tourism. We want to make sure that these secondary freight network roads – not necessarily state or federal roads but local government roads – get the attention they deserve. That’s why this $70 million under the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative, under this Federal Government funding initiative, gets to where it needs to get: that’s the roads right throughout WA’s regional roads network in the Wheatbelt area.
My colleagues know just how important this area is. My colleagues know that it’s important to get people home sooner and safer, but they also understand the importance of supply chain efficiency. They also understand the importance of productivity. We know, because we live in these regional areas. We know, because we talk and communicate with people, farmers, miners, people who travel here for tourism, people who live here who love this area, and that’s why we’re putting down on the table $70 million to improve these roads. That’s why we’re working with the 42 councils who have come together to form this network, come together to make sure that the Wheatbelt roads network is front and centre of what we’re talking about in Canberra.
And it’s not just here in the Wheatbelt area, it’s also right around regional WA that we’re investing in the roads network. Just today, I was in Laverton announcing $76.5 million to seal a further 155 kilometres of the Outback Way. That’s going to make such a difference too. When that particular section is finished it leaves only 35 per cent of that 2700 kilometre stretch unsealed.
So we’re getting on with the job. We’re making sure that regional roads whether it’s in WA, Northern Territory, Queensland, indeed right around the nation are well served, are well looked after, and are funded. This is important, and with that I’d like to now hand over to Melissa Price, who is the Environment Minister, who is the Member for Durack, to also make a few comments. Melissa.
Thank you, Michael, and it’s great to be here with you in Western Australia. I just want to acknowledge Shane Love has arrived, the local state Member. I’m not the local federal Member but it’s lovely to be here anyway. I just want to acknowledge Mia Davies and also Martin as well. And lots of people here from local government authorities – it’s great to have you here. I know it’s a bit warm so we won’t keep you too long.
But I reflected on the journey – and I haven’t been on this journey for long, probably just over 12 months, but talking to the Brookton ladies, they tell me it’s six years, other people say it’s four years – but I can distinctly recall back 12 months ago, the last Budget, when we announced the $3.5 billion what we call the ROSI, Roads of Strategic Importance Fund, and I thought: gee, we need a bit of that money in the Wheatbelt. Because I knew about the Wheatbelt strategy that had been worked up. So, we had a flurry of emails, a flurry of phone calls. Rick Wilson, clearly he was involved from the southern part of the Wheatbelt network – and here we are today.
So, I know there’s been many moving parts; many people will try to take the credit for this project. We had a small part to play, but there’s no doubt that it’s because of those 42 shire councils that have been instrumental in pulling this together and people like Ricky Storer who’ve made sure that this has been front and centre of the plans for those regions that we’re here today.
So I want to thank you, Michael, for believing in our Wheatbelt, because we certainly believe in it. We know that clearly it’s critical from an agricultural perspective, but also from a mining perspective and just from a community safety perspective as well. But also we know that this is a new trend from a tourism perspective as well. So, these roads are very important to these 42 shire councils. $70 million: this is as much about regional development as it is about a road strategy and we want to be able to see these local councils supported.
I know this is a half a billion dollar project. I know we need more money and I’m sure some of the local councils are already thinking about how they can contribute to this project as well. And, you know, on a good day maybe the State Government might also contribute as well. So, I call upon Mark McGowan to also contribute to this because we know they haven’t really been supporting regional WA very well since they came into Government, so we would appreciate that as well.
But I want to thank everybody for their contribution, particularly thank Rick Wilson and Christian Porter for their support in advocating for this project and believing in the Wheatbelt of Western Australia.
Well, thank you very much, Melissa, and firstly, Deputy Prime Minister: welcome to WA and thank you so much for hearing the pleas from the people of Western Australia and across our regional areas. This funding announcement, as Melissa said, made in the last Budget, the $3.5 billion for the ROSI, identified a real need that we’ve been seeing across the Wheatbelt and WA and across regional WA generally, and that is that local ratepayers are being left to pick up the tab for freight that is being trucked through their electorates that might not necessarily originate in the electorates and may not end in their electorates.
So, this program, which you as the Minister have put in place, has been absolutely very welcome and it’s very exciting to be here today with Katrina Crute and Lyn Baker who have been on this journey since day one, about six years ago. I’m so pleased to be here to share their excitement.
To the Development Commissions and to the RDA who’ve worked on this project as well, I say to you: well done. And to all the local government people here today: exciting day; let’s get on with the work and let’s see some bitumen hit the road. Thank you very much.
Now to the Leader of the National Party in WA, Mia Davies, who I’m sure will put a lot of pressure on the State Government to come to the party. Mia.
I’m going to be very brief because I’m very aware that you’re all standing here in the very warm sun. It is a pleasure to have you here, Michael, along with our federal and state colleagues and candidates for the upcoming federal election. I sincerely want to thank the local governments that have done an amazing amount of work and I think Ricky Storer said to me today that had this money not been forthcoming, that they really wouldn’t have been able to progress any further until there was a significant amount put on the table by either the State or Federal Government. I’m very pleased that it’s been our federal colleagues that have recognised that we have a significant road network here in Western Australia, that we contribute a significant amount to the state and national economy. As such we are pleased to make sure that we are partnering with those people who bear the brunt of changing practices in terms of agriculture, mining, tourism, looking after the safety of our communities – everything that’s been said this far. But without this $70 million on the table to kick start that project, I really feel like it wouldn’t have gone any further. So, sincere congratulations to everyone. Thank you very much for remembering our corner of Western Australia and for giving our 42 local governments that have been involved, who often get criticised for not working together collaboratively – they have done an amazing job to put this on the national agenda. I will be putting pressure on the State McGowan Government to make sure that they come to the party as well. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Minister. Welcome everybody here and certainly the Deputy Prime Minister, Melissa, and Rick, everybody who has been able to turn up today for this – it’s fantastic. We’ve been looking forward to this so much and certainly, we got wind that we were having some coming our way two or three weeks ago. We’ve been pretty nervous about all this so it’s fantastic to actually be here today. This, to us, is our lifeblood. I drive a lot of the roads that are being funded, that are going to be funded, every other day and this time of year regularly in a truck, and some of it is diabolical. I’m not joking. You get home and you’re sweating sometimes. The trucks are so big and they’re passing within half a metre of each other on really rough roads – so this is going to be fantastic for all with the safety aspect – as you said, you’re going to arrive home safer and quicker which is a fantastic point.
But even further to that is the fact that it’s going to affect all of our other roads because at the moment, local government, the Shire of Gingin or Chittering or wherever it may be, are putting so much money into these roads that we just have to keep up to a standard – that leaves everything else, there’s not a big enough pot for everything else. So, this now is allowing them to be able to put money into the other roads. It’s going to make the whole network safer right across the 42 local governments. And as the Mayor has just said, we had got to the point where we were nearly dead in the water; we’d done all we could; we’d done our research; we’d done our consultancy and we’d developed the routes – but we got to the point without some funding we couldn’t do anything else. We just have to just express our gratitude that we have been recognised and this funding has been forthcoming.
I would also like to thank firstly, the 42 local governments, because 42 local governments together: it’s often been said it’s like herding cats, but it hasn’t been like that. We put it out there and of course there’s a little bit of argy bargy but everybody has been really happy to acknowledge: okay, we’re only going to get a little bit of road out of this but it’s going to be important. So, they’ve been fantastic. The working group that has spent so many hours and the local governments that have been able to support – I must mention the Shire of Dandaragan: Garrick Yandle, who has done a power of work in the engineering, the nuts and bolts of this – so I have to acknowledge the Shire of Dandaragan. It has been estimated that there’s about three-quarters of a million dollars in-kind work to this point that local governments have been put in there, putting their hands in their own pockets. So, I absolutely appreciate it. On behalf of all 42 local governments, thank you to the Federal Government for this announcement.