The future of state-owned monopoly assets and key road infrastructure in Western Australia hang in the balance this State Election, with the agricultural sector following the issues with keen interest.
Speaking on two of the WAFarmers State Election Wish List items that make up their Policy Platform, WAFarmers President Tony York said industry needed to have the clear protections and benefits outlined, particularly in regards to the sale of Fremantle Port and Western Power.
“WAFarmers does not support the privatisation of any monopoly state-owned asset or assets, though acknowledges that the long-term lease of Fremantle Port remains a possibility under the current State Government,” he said.
“Further, we are cautious of any move to privatise a state-owned asset, particularly one that is monopolistic in nature such as Western Power, and would need reassurance that the new provider will support the country grid and ensure access and pricing is protected.”
Mr York said there needed to be a requirement for the new entity to continue to re-invest in the country poles and wires, while exploring new power generation and transmission technologies.
“Maintenance of regionally-located infrastructure will need to be kept to the current standard, as a minimum, with efforts made to improve the standard of regionally-located poles and wires,” he said.
“There is scope for a program to be undertaken to transition power poles from wood to metal – a portion of the sale could be quarantined as a matched funding effort to progress this.
“Western Power has a repair and maintenance program underway to promptly lift the standard of poles and wires in the Wheatbelt, as much of this infrastructure is 30 to 50 years old, so there must be a commitment that this program will be continued and expanded across regional WA.
“Finally, as a result of recent fires, there has been a push from government for landholders to be responsible for power poles that are placed within the boundary of private property.
“WAFarmers and the agricultural industry need know if this scenario will continue under a new arrangement, or if the new entity will assume responsibility for all poles and wires.”
Mr York said that irrespective of how events proceed with the sale of Fremantle Port and Western Power, WAFarmers recognised that Roe 8 and the Perth Freight Link are vital for the logistics of Perth.
“WAFarmers recognises the critical role roads play in the movement of freight and agricultural products around the state, so we support investment into new infrastructure and transport linkages that increase long term productivity and efficiencies for agricultural producers,” he said.
“WAFarmers opposed the proposal for a toll to be placed on the Perth Freight Link as farmers are price takers, not price makers in every facet of their enterprise. As a result, margins have become very tight, and any increase on a freight dependent sector will have severe impacts on every farmer across WA.”
Mr York said if a toll was to be introduced, WAFarmers proposed two compromises:
- As the Perth Freight Link is designed to remove trucks from roads, the toll should be placed on general commuters rather than freight vehicles.
- Any introduced toll should have a sunset clause imposed. The toll should be used to recoup the cost of building and maintaining the road, not used as a revenue stream for other projects. The toll is to be on a cost recovery basis to government and owned by government. Therefore, tolling systems should not be issued to a third party.
“WAFarmers acknowledges that the State Government has taken measures to ensure that adequate safeguards are available to prevent failings as seen in the privatisation of WA railway network, but encourages all parties to outline clear protections and benefits that the privatisation of state-owned monopoly assets would have for the agricultural industry.”