A SENATE inquiry will be held into the controversial Perth Freight Link.
The move was spearheaded by Fremantle-based Greens senator Scott Ludlam, who said an inquiry was necessary to establish why the Barnet and Abbott governments had consistently failed to publish basic information about the toll highway.
“Whatever your views on whether this project is a good idea or not, the public is owed an explanation as to how an open-ended funding commitment of up to $2.5 billion was made in the absence of basic information,” Senator Ludlam says.
“I will propose to the committee that hearings are held in Perth, and that, among others, [transport] minister Dean Nalder and Main Roads are asked to attend.
“It’s time they provided factual evidence to back up their claims that the project is worth torching billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.”
Labor, the Greens and eight crossbenchers joined forces to secure the inquiry Thursday.
The PFL inquiry will heap more pressure on the Barnett government, which is facing stern opposition from local community groups and even its own party members over why it is ploughing $650 million into the $1.6 billion tollway.
Opponents argue the link is pointless as a new port at Kwinana will be required within 15 years to cope with imports and exports.
Greens MLC Lynn MacLaren says it remains unclear how the Barnett government intends to fund the PFL.
“A year ago, minister Nalder said the state government contribution to the link would be $260 million, with a private investor to pay another $390m and the commonwealth, $925m,” she says.
“But no private investor was interested, so the cost to the state rose to $650 million, prompting the obvious question, from where in our cash-strapped state budget has the Barnett government drawn the extra $390 million?
“When I asked this question last night the minister claimed it was ‘not possible to answer’.”
Meanwhile, the federal environment department’s assessment of the Roe 8 stage has been delayed after the Greens complained not enough information had been provided.
The Greens said the WA government had failed to provide adquate information about impacts on the endangered Carnaby’s black cockatoo.
Premier Colin Barnett says the Roe 8 section is essentially ready to be built but the route for stage 2 between Stock Road and Fremantle port is yet to be finalised, despite contracts for the PFL scheduled to be sewn up by December.
The inquiry committee will accept public submissions and will conduct hearings.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK