HEALTH minister Roger Cook has confirmed Fremantle council will take the lead with local Labor MP Simone McGurk on a study of Fremantle Hospital land that could be redeveloped.
Mr Cook toured Fremantle Oval with mayor Brad Pettitt and CEO Phil St John this week to hear how the council wants to redevelop the area to reconnect it with the city’s CBD and make it the go-to sports venue it once was.
“The benefits of the project can only be fully realised if the government moves to unlock state-owned land in the area, so it’s great to have the minister here to show him around and explain what a unique opportunity this is to work in partnership on future plans for the oval precinct and Fremantle Hospital,” Dr Pettitt said.
Dr Pettitt says there’s a couple of options available for the oval, and despite additional costs he’d like to see the playing surface moved back towards Victoria Pavilion.
That could free up land at the rear, which adjoins the daggy end of the hospital, which is currently cut off with unsightly coils of barbed wire.
Dr Pettitt says with improved public connections, some of the land could be used for commercial, residential and parking.
Mr Cook said he’d already had some internal discussions with the department about using land sales to speed up the redevelopment of the hospital, but says Ms McGurk’s in the driving seat.
“This is an exciting opportunity and this is the brain child of Simone, who said ‘why don’t we give the hospital a new leases of life,” Mr Cook told the Herald.
He says the costs of running a revamped hospital will be run through the government’s “sustainable health review”.
Mr Cook’s congenial amble around the site could also be seen as another example of one of this council election’s oddest plays; Labor’s love-in for Greens mayor Brad Pettitt.
The good doctor has already had housing minister Peter Tinley’s glowing appraisal at one of his campaign events, former federal Labor MP Melissa Parke added her moniker to his election material this week (material that’s endorsed by former Labor police minister Bob Kucera’s son Tim, who also happens to be the son-in-law of former Fremantle Labor MP and left faction powerbroker Jim McGinty) and Cr Hannah Fitzhardinge, an active Labor member, has been an almost constant presence at his shoulder during the campaign.
It’s got all the feeling of a courting ritual—and this in a city where the two parties have supposedly been at war since Adele Carles broke Labor’s hold over the state seat in 2009.
But Dr Pettitt says he hasn’t been approached about jumping ship, and a Labor insider told the Herald the unusual alliance was more about locking his rival Ra Stewart out of the race.
That’s got Ms Stewart spitting chips; she says she’s being unfairly painted as a right-winger when she’s got no affiliation to the Liberal party other than meeting with small business ministers when they were in power and she headed Freo’s chamber of commerce.
“I am not going to comment on the support I receive from anyone in particular, but I find it extraordinary they would be doing that when they have not engaged with me at all to find out what my opinions are on any issues,” Ms Stewart says.
What also makes the Pettitt/Labor alliance all the more quirky is that Ms Stewart’s biggest supporter is former Fremantle mayor Peter Tagliaferri; Labor’s candidate that lost Fremantle to Ms Carles.
He’s fuming over his party’s backing of Dr Pettitt.
Fremantle Society president John Dowson has also been noticing Labor’s renewed interest in Freo council and he says it’s not good for Fremantle.
“It’s scared off some good people; some society members were thinking of running, but they got scared off saying what’s the use against this massive machine,” Mr Dowson said.
by STEVE GRANT