This section of the submission was completed by the Rethink the Link alliance.
RTL also hold many of the concerns expressed by WAG and YCAT previously stated in this submission so will not repeat them here.
A substantial issue that RTL has in regard to the Perth Freight Link Project has been the lack of transparency from the day the project was announced.
Not only has the government refused to provide evidence for assertions made in the public domain, they have refused to undertake open public consultations and have paid large amounts to companies for PR spin about the project.
10.0 Project business case and lack of transparency
Rethink The Link has found that both the federal and state governments have undertaken questionable practises in progressing the Perth Freight Link Project.
There have been considerable requests under the FOI for the release of documents relating to the business case and decision making processes on this project that have been refused citing ‘commercial in-confidence’.
RTL believe these refusals are unconscionable and deny the ability for the public to scrutinise and make accountable both governments.
For more information, please see the following articles:
10.1 Senate Inquiry into the PFL
Due to the overwhelming concern about the process that brought about the PFL project, the Senate on 13 August 2015 moved that the decision to commit funding to the Perth Freight Link project be referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee for inquiry and report by 26 November 2015, with particular reference to:
the decision-making process that led to the announcement that the Perth Freight Link would receive Commonwealth funding,
the information relied upon by state and Commonwealth governments informing the decision to fund this project,
the importance of transparency of decision-making in relation to infrastructure decisions,
evaluation of options for managing growth in the Perth freight task, and
any related matters.
An initial hearing was held in Fremantle on 7 October 2015 but with the amount of evidence provided, the Senate granted on 29 February 2016 an extension of time for reporting until 29 April 2016 and a second hearing was held in Kwinana on 23 March 2016.
In total there were 228 written submissions to the inquiry with only about 6 supporting the PFL. Many of the submissions outlined the lack of process and the already bipartisan agreement on an Outer Harbour alternative. The Western Australian Premier and Ministers refused to appear as witness to the hearings.
10.2 Supreme Court ruling on Roe 8
In July 2015 the WA Environment Minister gave approval for the section of the PFL known as Roe 8 to go ahead. A record 165 appeals were lodged with the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and they originally did not advise approval but subsequently changed their stance admitting that building a freeway across the signifiant Beelair Wetlands would cause damage.
The Save The Beeliar Wetlands group took the WA government to the Supreme Court over the approval and on 16 December 2016 won the case.
In his judgment, the Chief Justice said the EPA took no account of its published policies when it recommended to the State Government the project be approved. He found the EPA was legally obliged to follow its own policies.
"The court concluded that the EPA took no account of its own published policies at the time it made its decision and provided its report to the Minister," Chief Justice Martin wrote in his judgment.
"The court therefore concluded that the environmental impact assessment undertaken by the EPA was invalid."
‘Perth Freight Link in limbo after WA Supreme Court rules environmental approvals invalid’
10.3 Deregistration of ancient aboriginal heritage site
Local indigenous custodians are now taking the state government to the Supreme Court after an advisory committee reversed its previous opposition to Roe 8 being built through the historic site.
The site was taken off the Aboriginal heritage register by the Aboriginal cultural materials committee (ACMC), part of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, in June 2015, after a controversial archaeological survey conducted by the department found no Aboriginal cultural material. The site is known to be “older than the pyramids” and other leading archaeologists have raised huge concerns over the methods used.
10.4 Refusal to provide Senate with documentation
On the 19th April the Senate passed a motion requiring the Federal Government to table the business case analysis and correspondence between State and Federal Ministers and their departments relating to the Perth Freight Link. The order required these documents to be provided by 4pm EST on the 20th April 2016, but they have refused to obey this order.
NOTICE OF MOTION 18 April 2016 Supported on April 19
1. The Senate notes:
As Prime Minister Turnbull stated on 15 November 2010 when in Opposition it would beggar belief that a government could be so reckless as to allow a massive investment to proceed without the publication of a business case, without the ongoing scrutiny of a parliamentary committee and, above all, without a rigorous cost-benefit analysis, and that any major infrastructure project must be subject to a rigorous cost benefit analysis and if it does not pass a rigorous cost benefit analysis it detracts from Australia’s wellbeing.
b. Resolution of the Senate of 14 October 2015 proposed by Nationals Senator Canavan that noted the importance of significant funding proposals being accompanied by detailed business cases and subject to a full assessment process, including by Infrastructure Australia, if $100 million or more of Commonwealth funding is sought, to ensure value for taxpayers’ money;
c. The announcement on April 12 by Prime Minister Turnbull of an additional $260 million for the Perth Freight Link, bringing the total federal contribution to $1.2 billion for a project with no business case; and
d. The ongoing deterioration in Western Australia’s budget position, with the recent downgrading of Western Australia’s Triple A credit rating to AA2, the second credit downgrading in 18 months.
2. There be laid on the table by no later than 4pm Wednesday 20 April 2016 by the Minister for Finance, the following documents:
a. All correspondence between any Minister and/or member of the federal bureaucracy with any Minister and/or member of the state bureaucracy the decision to provide an additional $260 million funding for the Perth Freight Link tunnel and the related public announcement – including any requests or proposals for additional funding from either government, any costings, briefing notes, speaking points, designs, maps, availability and type of tunnelling infrastructure, and related documents;
b. Any correspondence between the Minister for Finance or any member of the Turnbull government and any member of the Western Australian government including the Premier, relating to expediting the federal funding of the Perth Freight Link project;
c. The business case and cost benefit analysis for the Perth Freight Link Tunnel; and
d. A list of every National Partnership Agreement for infrastructure projects that have received over $100 million in federal funding from the Abbott-Turnbull government without a published business case and cost-benefit analysis
More information: http://greens.org.au/news/wa/turnbull-disobeys-senate-order-over-pfl-tunnel-docs
For a fuller description of the controversary surrounding this project refer to http://www.rethinkthelink.com.au, http://savebeeliarwetlands.com/about, http://www.savenorthlake.com.au, http://freoroad2rail.org and the media achive at http://www.rethinkthelink.com.au/media/