ONE month after resigning from Cabinet, former transport minister Dean Nalder insists his decision to stand down was not motivated by aspirations to replace Colin Barnett as Liberal Party leader.
Mr Nalder has shunned the media spotlight since a failed leadership spill on September 20 and said he was enjoying a return to grassroots politics as he prepares to contest the seat of Bateman in March.
The Alfred Cove MLA said his decision to give up his spot on the frontbench stemmed from frustration with his portfolio rather than a desire to become Premier.
“I found myself in a position where I didn’t believe I could perform the functions I had sworn an oath to as a minister,” he said. “That wasn’t done lightly, because I enjoyed the opportunities that existed to make a difference and make things happen.
“Everyone links my resignation to the spill but I didn’t resign because I was intending to challenge for leadership, I was resigning for other reasons. It had been an interesting two-and-a-half year period for me and I needed to take stock, spend a bit more time with my family and just step back a bit.”
Mr Nalder conceded he was unsure about his future Cabinet prospects but said he did hope to one day return to the frontbench.
“People tell me that a week is a long time in politics and we still have five months to go before the election,” he said.
“My focus at the moment is the election but beyond that, in the future at some point, I would like to serve again as a minister. Will that occur, how and when is all speculation.”
Bateman, especially with its new electoral boundaries, is one of the safest Liberal seats in the state but Mr Nalder is not taking anything for granted.
“I don’t think it’s going to be easy, it’s not a walk in the park and we’ve seen large swings in other states and in the Federal Election,” he said.
“Federally we won WA 55 per cent to 45 per cent but I think it is going to be closer than that; I think it is very close.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to the grassroots and dealing with the local electors.”
Roe 8 push ahead pleases Nalder
Mr Nalder also welcomed news the State Government had signed contracts to begin construction of Roe 8 and remains firm in his belief that an underground solution is the best option for the next stage of the Perth Freight Link.
“As a local member I’ll still be championing for a tunnel,” he said.
“The tunnel solution is cheaper than upgrading Stock Road and High Street and Leach Highway and the primary reason it is cheaper is because of the property acquisitions that are required, especially the commercial areas.
“The Government would have to look at buying Koala Storage, Gage Roads Brewing and probably D’Orsogna – there was about $400 million set aside for property acquisitions.”
Mr Nalder also said the productivity gains on offer through completion of the Perth Freight Link, a percentage of which would be recouped through a toll on freight, meant the project paid for itself.
“We looked at three productivity measures – fuel saved, time saved and maintenance saved and the benefit from the modelling by Main Roads was $1.09 per kilometre for the 84km from Fremantle to Muchea,” he said.
“The freight industry was saying bring it on and I knew if we could get this model right we could then roll out further infrastructure and we started measuring and looking at what the productivity gains were to see if it was viable.
“I’ve always said what sits behind Roe 8 and the Fremantle Tunnel is more important the road itself.
“If we can get a model that actually self funds infrastructure, that is what I was excited about.”
The State Government’s plan for the final mile of the Perth Freight Link, across the Swan River and into Fremantle Port, also remains unclear but Mr Nalder said advancing technology meant another tunnel could be the answer.
He said building a tunnel under the river now would require the base of the road sitting 26m below ground, resulting in elevation gradients ill suited to heavy vehicles.
“There is technology that is being proven up at the moment – we reckon it is five to 10 years away – where you dredge a trench in the river and build the tunnel on the surface.
“Then you float it out and drop it in before covering it over with some mud.
“You’re not going as deep which means you reduce the gradient and the length of the tunnel up. I think that is still a possibility that could occur but it still needs a few years.”