A fierce battle of views on a number of key issues were keenly debated at Bunbury’s meet the candidates breakfast on Wednesday morning.
Jointly hosted by the Bunbury Chamber of Commerce and Industries and Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA, the event gave Liberal candidate Ian Morison, Nationals candidate James Hayward, Greens candidate Michael Baldock and Labor candidate Don Punch a chance to put forward their platforms.
The four then took questions from the floor which sparked fireworks.
The future of Royalties for Regions
Mr Punch was asked if the Labor party support Royalties for Regions and if they would guarantee the spending of the fund in regional areas was accountable.
He said his party has committed to legislation that would stop a government spending all the money gained from any windfalls in the future.
“WA Labor is absolutely committed to Royalties for Regions and we will audit it if we win office to ensure the right outcomes are being achieved,” he said.
“There will be absolute transparency on how Royalties for Regions will be spent.”
Mr Hayward said there was no question Royalties for Regions will suffer under the Labor party.
“Labor want to use Royalties for Regions money to fix up roads which is the responsibility of Main Roads,” he said.
“Yes it’s legislated on how it’s collected, no it’s not legislated on how it’s spent and Labor have no plan for how they are going to deal with the state debt.”
Mr Morrison said it was worth noting the Nationals did not create the Royalties for Regions program.
“Royalties for Regions was created by a Liberal-National alliance and every project that has been proposed has gone across the Premier’s desk,” he said.
“The Labor Party will not adhere to Royalties for Regions – Mr Punch attacks it from the side and says things like ‘we are going to stop the wastage of funds in the development commissions’.
“That’s a remarkable proposition and he suggests the South West Development Commission waste funds.
“In that case, we ask, are you going to give you salary back for the past 18 years?”
Mr Baldock said Royalties for Regions was safe regardless of who wins government because it is legislated and a majority of both houses of parliament would need to vote to abolish it.
Let’s talk about a fast train
Each candidate was given a chance to talk about their rail commitment to Bunbury with a number of differing plans.
Mr Punch said the population in Bunbury dictates how much capital investment can be sunk into new rail projects.
“Our short to medium term solution is to squeeze maximum use out of the current rail infrastructure,” he said.
“While we are doing that we will investigate how we can link a new line into the CBD in a way that doesn’t have a dramatic effect on the CBD but improves rail access while investigating long term solutions for the future.”
Mr Baldock said getting a train station back into the CBD is critical if Bunbury wants to grow its tourism industry.
“People who want to come here by train do need to get where they want to be, rather than parked a couple of kilometre out of the city centre,” he said.
Mr Hayward said his party won’t be supporting the slow train, the Australind service, as it is a freight route.
“We don’t believe it’s possible to run a non-stop service on that route as Labor have proposed and it would be very expensive to build a second line to relieve this issues,” he said.
“We have proposed a scoping study, which does not determine the feasibility of a fast train – that has already been done. The scoping study looks at what it’s going to cost, where it’s going to go and what the rolling stock will be.”
Mr Morison said in 2005, Alannah Mactiernan planned to scrap the Australind train service and Bunbury MLA John Castrilli led a community movement to keep it.
“We support planning towards a fast train but we say that we also have to build a business case for a fast train,” he said.
“We need to focus alongside the planning on growth and jobs because it’s just not sustainable now.”
“Bunbury is in play”
Experienced political journalist Peter Kennedy moderated the event and noted the seat of Bunbury was well and truly in play.
“For Labor to win the next election there would need to be a uniform swing of 10 per cent which is a big ask and they also need to win 10 seats off the government, but the opinion polls show it could be possible on March 11,” he said.
“There are a number of reasons why a swing might be on including the ‘it’s time’ factor, controversial issues such as the privatisation of Western Power and the Roe 8 development and the state’s growing debt.”