Candidates for new seat of Bicton speak out on local issues

The candidates for Bicton.
The candidates for Bicton.

A NEW seat, Bicton, takes in part of the old Bateman, Alfred Cove and Willagee and has also added the suburb of East Fremantle.

The changes have cut the Liberal Party’s notional margin from 23.6 per cent in the old seat of Alfred Cove to just 10 per cent – the exact Statewide swing Labor requires to take office in March.

Former Bateman MLA Matt Taylor will contest the seat for the Liberals while Melville councillor Lisa O’Malley will represent Labor, preselected largely for the profile she has built as an active member of the Palmyra community.

Animal welfare activist Louise Dickmann has been nominated by the Greens while veteran Rethink the Link campaigner Steve Kepert will stand as an independent.

A relatively affluent electorate serviced by a pair of respected high schools, pockets of Bicton have dealt with a spike in crime in recent years.

Canning and Leach highways both rank among the most congested roads in Perth and the fate of Roe 8 and 9 remains a divisive issue for voters.

THE CANDIDATES

Liberal Party: Matt Taylor

Labor Party: Lisa O’Malley

Greens WA: Louise Dickmann

Independent: Steve Kepert

QUESTIONS

What do you view as the major election issues for both the Bicton electorate and the State?

Kepert: The biggest issue I am hearing from electors is the inability of both major parties to demonstrate financial competence and responsibility, particularly in the wake of a squandered resources boom. For the Bicton electorate, the proposed Perth Freight Link will have a heavy impact on the area if it goes ahead. Most people can see it is an extremely expensive piece of infrastructure that will not achieve its objective.

O’Malley: People tell me they are concerned about the Perth Freight Link and the privatisation of State assets like Western Power and Fremantle Port. People are also concerned about their jobs. WA now has the second-highest unemployment in the nation. Given we had an unprecedented mining boom in WA, that is unacceptable. Colin Barnett has failed to diversify our economy, and we are now paying for it with unprecedented levels of debt and deficit.

Dickmann: The contested need for Roe 8, and even Roe 9, seems uppermost in many people’s minds. The Greens do not support the extension of Roe Highway to Fremantle. WA has just experienced another boom and bust cycle, which increased the cost of living, then decreased the availability of secure, well paid employment at its end. Poor urban planning and inadequate public transport means that many people need to drive too far to access work and services from the outer suburbs, where they could find affordable housing.

Taylor: Secure full-time employment opportunities, support for families, tough action on crime and building the Perth Freight Link. For the Bicton electorate, I am campaigning for a new sporting, community and recreation precinct at East Fremantle Oval, a new performing arts centre at Melville SHS and improvements to the Attadale and Bicton foreshores including a revitalised Bicton Baths foreshore.

Crime in the suburbs of Bicton and Alfred Cove has increased while East Fremantle remains a hot spot. What needs to be done?

Kepert: The rise in crime is largely attributable to higher unemployment, the consequence of continued economic mismanagement. The first thing we need to do is solve the unemployment crisis, but our police have also been stretched too thin to continue maintaining adequate response times. Vigilance, home security and connected neighbourhoods will help to prevent a lot of crime but we still need more police.

O’Malley: It is clear the Barnett Government’s crime prevention strategy has failed. WA Labor has announced a range of initiatives to tackle crime, including a targeted strategy to deal with the methamphetamine epidemic, which is the source of much of the violent crime sweeping our suburbs. WA Labor will also return to more traditional policing, with more police on the beat in our communities.

Dickmann: There are well-documented relationships between illicit drug use, poor mental health and crime. The Greens WA solution is a health-based approach to drug use, including increased funding to programs that reduce drug use, significantly improved care for people who have mental health conditions as well as drug or alcohol problems and a co-ordinated approach between the police and the justice system to prevent crime and improve post-imprisonment rehabilitation.

Taylor: Locally I have held a law and order forum, have a meth forum pending. I have also been working closely with police, the Housing Authority and local residents to effectively curb crime in East Fremantle. We have increased penalties for dangerous driving, evading police, hooning and introduced mandatory sentencing for assaulting police officers and violent home invaders. Across WA, we have recruited an extra 1050 police and police auxiliary officers since 2008.

What can the State Government do better to support seniors and pensioners?

Kepert: Seniors are really feeling the above-inflation rises in the cost of living. We cannot allow utilities and government fees to bulge any further. I would also like to see more funding provided for Legal Aid to assist victims of elder abuse.

O’Malley: I have spoken to many seniors in the Bicton electorate who feel they have been let down by the Barnett Government. That is why I was pleased to announce that a McGowan Labor Government would provide $140,000 to local seniors’ organisations. This money will go to organisations like the Senior Citizens Club, Melville Cares and Bicton-Palmyra RSL for upgrades to facilities and equipment. Seniors have shaped our community and helped build everything we take for granted today; it is time to give back.

Dickmann: The Greens WA want the Government to establish a Policy Unit for Seniors that will develop initiatives to support seniors across all areas of Government services. We recognise that seniors need financial security and adequate incomes; plentiful accommodation options including adequate support to stay in their own homes; affordable and accessible health and dental care as well as readily available transport services.

Taylor: The Liberal Government introduced an annual cost of living rebate for WA Seniors Card holders to help with bills and other expenses. We also implemented the Grandcarers Support Scheme, providing payments to grandparents who are full-time carers for their grandchildren.

Canning and Leach Highways are among the most congested roads in Perth. How can this be addressed?

Kepert: Unfortunately, these highways are going to get even more congested in the coming years due to population growth and the continued neglect for efficient public transport. I would like to one day see an east-west light rail link that connected Fremantle with the Kwinana Freeway. Getting on with expanding the Kwinana Outer Harbour and building efficient transport infrastructure will take trucks off roads such as Leach Highway.

O’Malley: A McGowan Labor Government would increase the freight-rail subsidy to get more freight onto rail. That practical solution can be implemented in a short space of time. The next step is to get on with building the second port at Kwinana. The Perth Freight Link would instead take years to complete and destroy precious native bushland without actually ever reaching the port. Residents in East Fremantle know that trucks would simply have to queue up on Stirling Bridge, making access to North Fremantle virtually impossible for them.

Dickmann: Studies from cities all over the world reveal traffic always increases to fill the available roads. Every time we build new roads, congestion eases temporarily then increases again to previous levels. Instead of throwing good money after bad, we must find alternative solutions. The Greens WA want the Government to invest in a cheap, accessible and efficient public transport system that includes an urban light rail system and increased east-west connectivity.

Taylor: I have been advocating for years for the long-awaited Roe Highway extension to reduce congestion, improve safety and make driving easier for our community. The Roe 9 tunnel will protect the homes of people living on Leach Highway and High Street. Roe 8 and 9 will remove nearly 7000 trucks and 74,000 light vehicles per day from our arterial road network and generate over 6600 direct and indirect jobs.

What is your stance on the proposed Alfred Cove wave park?

Kepert: I do not believe Tompkins Park represents a suitable location. The proposal put forward comes with a lot of environmental and financial risk. I am particularly sceptical of the $2000 per day in rates that a new business has offered to pay the City of Melville.

O’Malley: As a parent of two kids, I generally like the idea of a Wave Park, but this is simply the wrong proposal; it is alarming that there has not actually been a full environmental assessment done on the site.

Dickmann: I would question whether the proposed location was an appropriate one for this type of development. More investigation is required to establish the patterns of migratory birds in the area and the potential impacts of increased traffic.

Taylor: As a surfer I am supportive of wave parks however there are genuine concerns about the location of this proposal.