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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 71

Mr JOSH WILSON (Fremantle) (16:25): I am glad to have this opportunity to speak about the government's failure to protect workers and the social and economic consequences of that failure. I am not glad to speak about the circumstances that prevail currently in Western Australia, because the reality is Western Australia is in a recession. We have the second highest unemployment rate in the country. We have a sequence of falling full-time employment rates that have been unmatched since the deep recession in 1990s. Underemployment is at its highest level since the ABS began keeping those statistics in 1978. As the member for Perth said, there are 100,000 people out of work in my home state.

What is most disappointing though is that this was foreseeable. Western Australia does have a resources economy. That resources economy has peaks and troughs. A responsible government prepares for those, yet nothing has been done. The Barnett government has perpetrated a long con on the people of Western Australia, quietly building up a mountain of debt and passively watching as jobs began to disappear.

It is entirely appropriate that the federal House of Representatives members from Western Australia speak on this topic because the Barnett government have been aided and abetted by the Turnbull government. The Barnett government should have been prepared for change. They should have ensured there was greater emphasis on local content participation when the resources economy was running strongly. As the economy cooled there should have been a focus on productive infrastructure investment. There has been complete inadequacy when it comes to that investment. WA has been badly let down by the Abbott-Turnbull government in all of those departments.

During the last election there were 78 road and rail projects announced or promised by the coalition. How many in WA? Three—three out of 78. Of $860 million worth of road and rail projects, barely $40 million, or 4.6 per cent, was delivered in Western Australia. That was in July last year. Last week the federal government announced projects being funded under the Regional Jobs and Investment Package—$220 million for 10 projects. The goal of the program is 'to help regions in Australia diversify their economies, stimulate long-term economic growth and deliver sustainable employment'. How many of the 10 projects are in Western Australia? None, zero, even though some of the relevant Western Australian regions have unemployment rates three times higher than those selected for funding. It is a bitter irony, as my colleagues have pointed out, that the only sniff of infrastructure funding we have is in relation to the Perth Freight Link—

Mr Fletcher: That's simply not true. There's $490 million for Forrestfield rail. It's absolutely wrong. What about NorthLink? It's simply untrue. There's millions—hundreds of millions.

Mr JOSH WILSON: a road without a plan, a road that does not reach the port, the most expensive road in WA's history, the first toll road in WA that will be commercially operated, a road that will not create jobs in the medium to long term, a road that locks us into ever-increasing truck freight and congestion, a road that cuts communities in half and a project that begins by doing unacceptable harm to the Beeliar Wetlands. The fact that 100 hectares of fragile bushland is being smashed down in the shadow of an election that could make the entire project redundant is a scandal.

The federal coalition has led the Barnett government by the nose on this project. The Minister for Urban Infrastructure, who has been interrupting me all the way, and the finance minister have taken now to threatening to withhold infrastructure funds from a future Western Australian Labor government, if elected. They are essentially saying that Western Australia will receive less than nothing. That is what you are saying, Minister Fletcher. Western Australia will receive less than nothing. So I hope, Minister, that you and your Western Australian colleagues campaign on that. I hope you campaign on that three-word slogan—for Western Australia, from you and your government: less than nothing. Come to Western Australia and campaign on that.

But the people of Western Australia are waking up to Mr Barnett. They know what he has delivered—$40 billion in debt, the highest per capita state debt, the second highest unemployment, the highest inequality and the largest gender pay gap. That is what Mr Barnett has delivered. That is some achievement! It is complacency and mismanagement on a grand scale, aided and abetted by the Abbott-Turnbull government.

Well, the people of Western Australia are waking up to Mr Barnett. They are going to get the opportunity shortly to hold the government to account. You have to take responsibility for your actions, and Mr Barnett will get his chance to take responsibility very shortly. The people of Western Australia are going to have the opportunity to choose a premier with a plan for jobs, a plan for productive infrastructure and transport, and a commitment to energetic and long-term leadership—a McGowan WA Labor government.