Perth: Prime Minister announces “significant” funding boost for Metronet

Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: AAP
Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: AAP

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull is expected to make a significant funding announcement towards the State Government’s Ellenbrook rail project this morning.

A Federal Government source told Community News that Mr Turnbull, who is in Perth, would make the announcement with Premier Mark McGowan.
The source did not confirm how much the funding would be, but said it would be a “significant” contribution.

It has been reported today that Turnbull could promise up to $2 billion in funding for rail infrastructure across Perth – but particularly in the marginal Federal seats of Pearce, Canning and Hasluck.

The announcement is expected to be made at Yagan Square at 9am.

The contribution to the Ellenbrook train line is expected to be similar to the $776 million allocated in 2017 by the Federal Government to the Yanchep rail project.

Train lines that form the State Government’s Metronet plan.

Premier Mark McGowan went to the 2017 election with an ambitious plan for rail infrastructure across WA, including the Thornlie-Cockburn circle link and the Byford Rail extension.

Late last year, progress on Metronet projects such as the Ellenbrook and Yanchep rail extensions were causing some tension between State and Federal politicians.

At the time, Pearce MHR Christian Porter issued a statement criticising the State Government, saying it had not submitted full business cases for Metronet projects.

Speaking on 6PR late on Thursday, the Prime Minister hinted at, but refused to confirm, funding for the State Government’s planned rail extensions to Yanchep and Ellenbrook.

“I can’t comment on any other infrastructure announcements,” he told Perth Live host Oliver Peterson.

A telecommunications tower was moved today to make way for the Morley-Ellenbrook train line.

“Until of course we make them when we’ll be talking about them a lot.

“Your inquiries are much appreciated – as you know I’m a passionate devotee of urban rail.”

Mr Turnbull gave a stronger indication though of his preparedness for Federal and State governments to work together.

“Absolutely, of course we should and that’s our job,” he said.

“Look at the hospitals deal we did.

“We signed up a new hospitals deal which over the 5 years to 2025 will deliver $14 billion in funding, very significant increase in funding into Western Australian hospitals.

“Mark McGowan signed up to that at the last COAG meeting.

“We are from the other side of politics of course but his job is to look after the people of Western Australia and so is my job to do that.”

The McGowan government had a major win last year when it convinced the commonwealth to reallocate $1.2 billion in federal funds for the now-abandoned Perth Freight Link road project to Metronet.

Earlier on Thursday, the Federal Government announced almost $189 million in funding for three Perth hospital upgrades – two in the marginal seats of Pearce and Stirling.

Australian Medical Association WA president Omar Khorshid said the money would go a long way at Joondalup Health Campus, which is getting 83.5 per cent of the cash.

But it represents a “drop in the ocean” for Osborne Park Hospital and the ageing Royal Perth Hospital, which will get the remainder.

“It’s tied and maybe that says something about the level of trust between the state and federal government,” Dr Khorshid told the broadcaster.

The funding tops up WA’s GST share in 2018-19 from 47 to 50 cents in the dollar.

It also brings Commonwealth top-ups in the past four years to $1.4 billion.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten recently spent six days in WA detailing Labor’s previously announced $1.6 billion infrastructure fund, which aims to act as a de facto GST floor, raising the state’s share to 70 cents in the dollar over two years.

Mr Shorten criticised Mr Turnbull for previously making whirlwind trips to the state, saying he’d only concede WA had a GST problem “then scoot off two hours later on a plane.”

– With AAP