Liberal incumbent Nathan Morton and Labor candidate Stephen Price went head-to-head in the CCI-organised candidate forum in the lead up to what moderator and CCI Director of Advocacy Cath Langmead described as the most important state election in a generation.
While they might differ on policy they couldn’t agree more on one thing – the future for Forrestfield is extremely exciting with the Forrestfield Airport Link set for completion in late 2020.
In his opening address, Morton couldn’t contain his excitement that the Perth foothills would no longer be the poor cousins to the CBD and areas north and south of Perth.
“By delivering this piece of infrastructure worth $2b – the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken by the public Transport Authority – it will transform the way people in this part of the world connect with the CBD,” he said.
The project will include 2000 parking spaces and the second largest bus interchange in Perth after Cockburn. Morton said urban development would include 10,000 residences housing 22,000 people and create 20,000 jobs once it reaches its full potential.
It comes on the back of the $1 billion Gateway WA Perth Airport and Freight Access Project – the state’s largest road project which has transformed the road network around Perth Airport.
He said development would deliver a world class transport activity centre comparable with Subiaco or Joondalup and drive jobs, not only during construction, but with ongoing commercial, restaurant and retail opportunities.
Former Australian Trade Union secretary Stephen Price echoed Morton’s excitement about the area and confirmed Labor would not scrap the airport link if elected.
“WA Labor will complete the rail link if there is a change of government in March,” he said.
Proper planning would unlock opportunities and create new industries, he said, though care had to be taken with how residential areas were developed and how land was rezoned industrial and light industrial.
“We have to make sure we have that sorted and planned appropriately to minimise the impact on the existing residential parts of the electorate and establish the right businesses,” he said.
Price said Labor would create innovate hubs to attract businesses, flagging jobs as the biggest issue facing small business.
“The best way we can help your business people is by creating a whole heap of employment opportunities to allow people that don’t have an income to become part of society again and spend money back in your businesses,” he said.
“We have a plan to do that through supporting small business, investing in tourism, re-establishing the training avenue for people in the area, ensuring TAFE is affordable and with our mandate for local content for business.”
Issues of concern to businesses raised during the Q&A session included the partial sale of Western Power, whether the candidates would support Roe 8 and Roe 9, local traffic problmes, consultation on future development, payroll tax, training for youth, rates on industrial properties and lower costs for business.
In closing, Morton said the equivalent population of Tasmania – 500,000 people out of a population of 2.5 million – had moved to WA in the last 10 years and admitted the State had faced challenges but had focussed on delivering the necessary infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, roads, public transport and electricity.
“I was so sick of seeing the northern and southern suburbs being the beneficiary of investment and us being the poor cousin. We have so much potential to realise in this local area in the coming years with the introduction and delivery of the Forrestfield Airport Link, this will drive a level of amenity in our local community that we have not seen before,” he said.
“I am so excited about that and I want to continue on this journey to deliver that for the local people, my family and friends who live here and that’s what I’ve been dedicated to for the last four years. We live in exciting times for the people in the foothills of Perth.”
Price, in his closing address, reaffirmed that WA Labor had a plan to turn the economy around with its plan for jobs and new industries.
“Forrestfield is right in the middle of those opportunities. We have the chance now to ensure we have adequate investment, development and involvement of the local businesses, community, local and State Government to ensure this area benefits to its upmost maximum from the new rail line.
“This is going to be an area for destination not departure. People are going to want to come here, live here and work here and enjoy the beauty of the whole hills area.”
He said Labor would invest heavily in the renewable energy industry.
“That is a future industry that is yet to take off in WA and yet to be developed to its full capacity and we’ll make sure new businesses get to establish themselves in WA because that is the way of the future.
“For too long we’ve been focussed on resources, so to get away we need to develop other industries to allow the economy to continue to prosper in times of downturn with the resource sector.”
The forum, which was jointly organised with Community News, was the first of three held last week, with other forums held in the seats of Balcatta and Wanneroo.