Reply to Budget 2010
Extract from Hansard – Thursday, 27 May 2010
Ms A.S. CARLES: I welcome the opportunity to reply to the budget on behalf of my constituents in Fremantle. The member for North West is lucky; I wish I could stand here and talk about royalties for Fremantle. Unfortunately, I have to say that, like other budgets in recent years, this budget contains very little for the people of Fremantle to get excited about. The budget reflects the view that Fremantle is there to service this state via the Fremantle port. There is a lot of money for the port and very little for local people.
Fremantle should be regarded as a major tourist destination in WA and funded accordingly. Tourists love to visit Fremantle for its beaches, the Western Australian Maritime Museum, historic buildings and the cappuccino strip, but they need more. However, in recent years, successive state governments have lost interest in Fremantle, and the city is showing signs of neglect. The downgrading of Fremantle in the 2031 planning document insulted many of us. There have been large cuts to the arts sector. Fremantle Hospital is set to lose its tertiary status when Fiona Stanley Hospital opens, and this will of course impact negatively on my constituents who currently access Fremantle Hospital’s emergency department and other tertiary facilities.
The arts sector in Fremantle needs a major funding boost. In recent times we have lost the Fremantle History Museum, the Fremantle Light and Sound Discovery Centre, the Fremantle Motor Museum and the World of Energy museum. Port cities like Liverpool have paved their way to success and revitalisation through a heavy emphasis on the arts and culture, and in particular on museums. Our local Fremantle theatre companies like Deckchair Theatre and Harbour Theatre struggle to find rehearsal and performance space despite their everincreasing potential audience from domestic and overseas tourists. The proposed ING development for Victoria Quay in Fremantle provides a unique opportunity for the port to be revitalised and for the arts sector to be boosted. However, for this to happen, the developer needs to offer more than just retail and commercial space. I urge the government to support this development so that more can be returned to the community. There is no performing arts theatre in Fremantle. Deckchair, our local cutting edge theatre company, makes do with Victoria Hall, a venue that is too small, has no air conditioning, has no rehearsal space and has no proper seating. Patrons sit on plastic chairs, but they do not complain because the theatre is brilliant. I urge the Minister for Culture and the Arts to visit Deckchair to experience the high quality theatre that is being produced, and to start seriously funding Deckchair.
Mr J.H.D. Day: I have been to a couple of performances there in the past year.
Ms A.S. CARLES: Would the minister agree that Deckchair needs support?
Mr J.H.D. Day: Indeed. And it does get some public funding.
Ms A.S. CARLES: It gets a little bit, but not serious funding. I urge the minister to support a custom-made performing arts theatre to seat 350 people at the new ING development on Victoria Quay so that Deckchair can finally have a proper home and can grow and flourish as it deserves to. Tourists would flock there. The tourists on the cruise ships would be a ready-made market for a theatre at the port of Fremantle. Victoria Quay also represents a unique opportunity for an immigration museum to complement the Welcome Walls at the port. The names are recorded, but what about the stories? I know there is a lot of interest in those. I recently presented a petition containing more than 500 signatures from petitioners calling for an immigration museum to be incorporated in the ING development. It could even be placed in the historic immigration building that is on the site. I urge the Minister for Planning to look closely at the current planning for Victoria Quay so that these unique opportunities to locate an arts venue and to commemorate our history are not lost.
There is no funding in the budget now or in the forward estimates for a light rail transit system in the proposed Cockburn coast district structure plan. This future development is set to bring an additional 10 000 residents to the region just south of Fremantle. The inclusion of light rail in this development would significantly reduce congestion on Hampton Road and alleviate the need for its widening. Now is the time to plan to reduce the major problem of traffic congestion in Fremantle. More people and more vehicles will only exacerbate an already very big problem. An electrified light rail system could be powered by renewable energy. Fremantle would be the ideal urban location to demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of a pilot light rail network, with its willing community and supportive local government.
The budget contains $516 million to be spent on roads. Like the opposition, I am very relieved to see that the $550 million Roe Highway stage 8, which would have destroyed sensitive wetlands, appears to have disappeared off the books. I hope it is gone for good. There are far better, environmentally responsible ways to spend this money, such as on the light rail transport system I have been discussing.
I am very concerned about the Fremantle Traffic Bridge, which joins my electorate to the Premier’s electorate of Cottesloe. I smell a rat in the budget papers and I intend to get to the bottom of this in the estimates hearings. What happened to the $81 million referred to in the 2008 budget for the construction of a new bridge on the basis that the current bridge is unsafe? This amount appears to be halving every year in the budget. Construction costs are rising but the money allocated is reducing. If I were a cynic, I would suggest that this is an attempt to have this liability simply disappear off the books. However, if this bridge is indeed unsafe, it must be replaced or repaired. I intend to get to the bottom of what is going on.
The mining boom is impacting on my constituency, with the ever-increasing amounts of cargo passing through the port causing increased congestion and pollution for my constituents. The export of lead concentrate from Magellan Metals Pty Ltd’s Wiluna mine site via the Fremantle port has angered many people in Fremantle, who do not accept that it is safe. While Fremantle residents have been assured by the government that environmental regulation will be tight and conditions will be strict, they have not forgotten the Esperance lead contamination by Magellan in 2006. An audit released in March 2010 has already found problems with Magellan’s lead shipments through Fremantle, with four instances of non-compliance detected. Regulatory complacency has already set in. I fear that within the next 10 years of these shipments, something will go seriously wrong either at my port or somewhere along that freight line, which passes through 22 suburbs in Perth. I remain of the view that these exports should be halted and that the lead ought to be smelted if it is to be exported at all.
The ongoing dredging of Fremantle Inner Harbour has also demonstrated how the clamour to cash in on the economic boom can override social and environmental concerns. Despite a great deal of information coming to light recently about the poor state of the Swan River, relatively lax pollution controls were authorised for the dredging operation. While there is additional funding for the Swan River in the budget, no funding is targeted to deal with the specific environmental impacts caused by the dredging. My office has received many, many complaints from people who live along the river and who are very alarmed at the damage and pollution that has been caused to the river systems. I urge the government to allocate specific funding to clean up the waterways damaged by the dredging.
The budget also acknowledges that the river is under increasing pressure and that water quality continues to deteriorate. I urge the government to fund and implement the fertiliser action plan. The river is choking with nutrients from fertiliser run-off, and the solution is relatively simple. Controls need to be imposed on the types of fertilisers that are currently used on agricultural land that drains into the river. I have heard the member for Maylands speak about this issue as well. Only slow release fertilisers with minimal impact on river bodies should be used near our waterways.
The Swan River Trust should also be funded to address the issue of non-nutrient contamination of the Swan River. Pesticides and herbicides are being misused near waterways and dangerous chemicals are entering the river. The damage to the river is obvious, and the Swan River dolphins should not have died in vain. It is clear that they were debilitated by high levels of pesticides and industrial chemicals that allowed opportunistic infections to overcome them. The various drains and dumps that feed these poisons into the river have to be intercepted and controlled to prevent further damage. I do not believe anyone in our community would complain if the government committed significant funding to this end.
Climate change is upon us, yet one would not believe it, sitting where I am. Recent estimates are predicting sea level rises of around two metres by the end of the century. For the climate change sceptics in this place, I suggest a thorough reading of “The Copenhagen Diagnosis 2009: Updating the World on the Latest Climate Science” by Allison et al. If we are to get serious about sustainable levels of carbon emissions, Western Australia must make some real inroads into renewable energy developments. I know that the government has made some inroads with this budget, with the Merredin wind farm being supported and the introduction of the net feed-in tariff costing $23 million. However, this is just a start, and a whole lot more needs to be done if the government is serious about getting anywhere near its target of 20 per cent renewables by 2020. The international research from countries such as Germany and Spain shows that the only way to generate real investment in renewables is the implementation of a gross feed-in tariff. The gross tariff rewards the householder for every joule of electricity generated. Until we get the gross tariff in this state, we will not see the large-scale uptake needed to transform our energy market. Householders are being hit with rising electricity prices today without any long-term solution being offered to them. Once again, the international research from Spain shows that we need to get serious about investing in renewable energy if we want electricity prices to come down in the long term. I urge the government to support a wind farm at the port of Fremantle. There is a groundswell of support in Fremantle for such a project. Other ports such as Liverpool and Amsterdam have commissioned very successful urban wind farms at their ports. Upgrading our grid and investing in renewable energy projects in Western Australia would be a very wise way to invest our budget surplus.
Another expensive and dirty energy source that the government is currently flirting with is uranium. The government has dealt us into the deadly game of the global nuclear fuel cycle by lifting the ban on uranium mining in Western Australia. Hollow arguments are being advanced as to why we need to sell uranium to the world, and one of the most politically cynical of these is the promotion of the argument that it is a panacea to dangerous climate change. The arguments do not stack up and I challenge members in this place to bring on the debate so that these issues can be properly debated in the house. Only this week there were more reports about leaks and contamination at the Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu. These incidents continue to occur, and the environmental impacts and costs cannot be swept under the carpet. If uranium mining starts up in Western Australia, is the government going to fund contingent liabilities in future budgets for potential contamination? What sort of money would that require?
The government’s controversial stop-and-search powers need to be scrapped before they become a major embarrassment for this state. Where is the funding in the budget for the additional burden that these powers will place on our police force? There is no doubt that these laws will interfere with our right to privacy and our right to be free from arbitrary interference. Without the test of reasonable suspicion, the police run the risk of searching people on a discriminatory basis, which is an erosion of our fundamental right to go about our business without being harassed. Aboriginal adults and youths will be disadvantaged by these laws, and it is disingenuous of the government to say otherwise. If a disproportionate number of Aboriginal people are stopped and searched without justification, it follows that they will face higher rates of incarceration—and they already have the highest rates in the country. The government needs very few reminders that it is very expensive to imprison people. It costs well over $100 000 a year to house one youth in the juvenile justice system. That is a lot of money that could be put to better use. We could use it for diversion programs or education programs, or we could use it to build safe houses for our kids at risk to get them off the streets. We need a whole new paradigm in dealing with at-risk juveniles. Locking up kids is simply not working, and the statistics support this.
The introduction of the hoon laws has proven to be fantastically expensive due to the impoundment of thousands of vehicles. The state is now more than $2 million out of pocket due to a growing stockpile of impounded vehicles that remain unclaimed. This scheme has backfired on taxpayers. What a shame that our budget surplus will be frittered away on a dead loss like this. There are far more deserving causes, one of which is the people who were abused while in state care and who are still waiting to receive their Redress WA payments. With the $286 million surplus in this budget, I would urge a demonstration of compassion by reinstating the Redress scheme from $45 000 to $80 000 for those most traumatised survivors of abuse in state care.
To conclude, I would like to challenge the state government to give the environment the same priority funding as royalties for regions. I am talking about doubling the environment funding. The funding allocated in this budget for the environment is around $400 million, which is about two per cent of the total budget, with approximately half of that earmarked for royalties for regions. If we want the economic benefits of more development, we must be honest about the environmental costs. In the context of a $22 billion spend, it is not out of the ballpark for the government to double the funding for the environment to $800 million to bring it in line with royalties for regions. This would be a great investment for the next generation.