NEW WA Premier Mark McGowan says he’s furious the Barnett government chose the more expensive and environmentally destructive option to start the contentious Perth Freight Link project, knowing an election loss was likely.
Meanwhile, Liberal MP Dean Nalder – who was transport minister until September when he went to the back bench after a failed bid to oust Colin Barnett as party leader – admits it was “inappropriate” to start construction of the first stage, Roe 8, during the election campaign.
The West Australian newspaper reported on Thursday that Main Roads set out two options for the then Liberal government, addressing the possibility of Labor winning the election and stopping construction.
One option minimised costs and delayed clearing at the environmentally-sensitive Beeliar Wetlands, but the former government opted instead to clear the wetlands, carrying the financial risk of $50 million in sunk costs for contract cancellation.
Sunk costs for the other option were half that figure.
Not only had Labor long vowed to tear up contracts, the Liberals knew polling was pointing to an election wipe-out.
Mr McGowan labelled the decision to start the project at the wetlands “grossly reckless and grossly irresponsible”.
“They went for the far more destructive and expensive option – I’m very angry about that,” he told 6PR radio on Thursday.
“They thought they were going to lose the election so they decided to burn the house down. That’s cost the taxpayers of Western Australia tens of millions of dollars more.”
Labor suspended work on the project within 24 hours of its landslide election win.
Mr McGowan says he expects to keep the cancellation cost at about $50 million, subject to negotiations with the companies involved.
The Conservation Council of WA has called for a Royal Commission into the project following the revelations.