THE Perth Freight Link, slow internet speeds and the emerging Asian market were all on the agenda when Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen caught up with local business owners at Cafe 58 in Palmyra on Monday.
His visit formed part of a whirlwind tour of anticipated State election battlegrounds and he was joined at the forum by Labor candidate for Bicton Lisa O’Malley and recently elected Fremantle MP Josh Wilson.
The trio reassured business owners of their commitment to the Outer Harbour and nominated WA Labor’s METRONET, Community Connect South and upgrades to the intersection of High Street and Stirling Highway as better uses of the Federal Government funding currently committed to the Perth Freight Link.
Mr Bowen said the NBN remained one of Labor’s core economic policies after a Rockingham business owner expressed his frustration at having to shell out $180,000 for 1km of optic fibre to connect directly to the network after he was told the only alternative was the slower fibre to the node solution.
He also spoke at length about the rapidly expanding middle classes in China, India and Indonesia but emphasised that demand in those countries was shifting from minerals and resources to services and manufactured products.
The budget deficit was also raised and while Mr Bowen believed it was currently manageable, he flagged far-reaching reforms such as changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax as the kind of measures required to ensure a return to surplus.
Speaking after the event, Mr Bowen said the kinds of issues WA business owners raised resembled those across the country but were thrown into sharper focus by a struggling State economy.
“I think because the economic transition is at its most acute in WA, businesses are doing it tougher here than elsewhere,” he said.
“There is a little bit more of an urgency to the stories you hear.
“That said, there are always reasons for optimism; if you are able to put your plans in place there are great opportunities in Asia and in the provision of services.”
Mrs O’Malley said just over 40 per cent of Attadale residents owned their own small business – the highest rate in the State – and East Fremantle was not far behind at 30 per cent.