MR J.E. McGRATH (South Perth) [4.45 pm]: As a prelude to my address today I would like to remind the house that this will be the last time that I make an address in reply to the Premier’s Statement. Who knows? I might miss it. This afternoon I want to take advantage of the opportunity to speak about my electorate and the portfolios that I still hold at the moment. How long I hold those portfolios for will depend on what happens in the run-up to the next election. I think it is probably wise for somebody else to take over my portfolios so that they can become used to the great portfolios of sport and recreation, and racing and gaming, but I will talk to the Leader of the Opposition.
Firstly, I want to talk about South Perth. I have been the member for South Perth for 15 years now. I think my electorate is beginning to make great strides as it readies itself for changing times. The change I am seeing now in South Perth with new developments, increased density and high-rises on Mill Point Road is probably the greatest change that the electorate of South Perth has experienced in 60 years. The last time we saw change like this was when the Narrows Bridge was built and opened in 1959, which led to a rash of developments. Old single-storey residences were knocked down and replaced by taller buildings and blocks of flats and apartments. Recently, the Minister for Planning approved two towers that comprise Civic Heart. It is a development at the corner of Mill Point Road and Mends Street in South Perth, which is a precinct that most members would know, especially the Treasurer, who has been seen at the Windsor Hotel from time to time. It is a very popular meeting place. Others meet at Coco’s. The Minister for Planning called in this development, which created some controversy. I do not oppose the minister’s decision. I believe that something had to be done because this development had been sitting there since Finbar successfully tendered to buy the site in 2013. That was six years ago. However, the history of the site probably goes back 10 or 12 years.
Mr B.S. Wyatt: And that site had been slowly aggregated by the council for a long time.
Mr J.E. McGRATH: Yes. The buildings were falling down and in a state of disrepair, so a long time ago the council decided to buy the privately owned buildings. On one corner sits the post office owned by Australia Post. Back then the City of South Perth tried to buy the post office but was unsuccessful. On the other corner sits the old South Perth police station, which the City of South Perth tried to keep going as a smaller station for local residents when everything was moved to Kensington police station, but that is no longer the case. In the end, the City of South Perth owned a couple of buildings used by the South Perth Learning Centre and a child-minding group or kindergarten. The city realised that it was it costing money. It was a site that would potentially make a great entry statement to our city for people who drive across the Narrows Bridge and come to the Mill Point Road–Labouchere Road junction. The city could not aggregate all eight lots, so it sold them separately but in one action. They were put out to tender and in 2014 Finbar successfully tendered the site in a joint venture. Finbar has already built a couple of apartments in South Perth—Reva and Aurelia, a 20-storey development opposite this particular site. That was the start of this process but over the years there have been some problems. When Finbar was building Aurelia it wanted to go underground with a five-storey car park. This impacted the watertable and other car parks in the area flooded and the trees started dying. It was quite a serious issue back then. As a result, there were some doubts about what Finbar could do with the Civic Heart development because the original plan was to have five storeys of underground parking. At the same time, Finbar was selling off the plan. Due to the planning uncertainty and concerns raised by the residents of Mill Point peninsula about where this might all end with the watertable rising and the problems with flooding, Finbar found it difficult to sell the apartments off the plan so it pulled back. Without knowing the actual specifics and the time line, I believe that Finbar then went to the city and said that it wanted to develop the land. The city had sold the land on the condition that whoever tendered for the land would develop an entry statement for the city. When things became a bit difficult and there was a bit of turmoil and public opposition, Finbar went back to the city with a scaled-back version of the plan to keep everyone happy. The city said no to that plan. It had to be an entry statement to the City of South Perth because it sits right across the river from the CBD and is an iconic and historic area. Finbar then had to go away and come up with a new plan. The new plan was approved by the City of South Perth. Finbar had worked closely with the city and its design advisory panel to come up with a design. The City of South Perth ticked off on the design and supported it. Finbar then went to the joint development assessment panel and for some reason JDAP called in the Government Architect whose view was that the design was not as excellent as it should have been. That placed this ongoing development saga into limbo again. Finbar appealed to the State Administrative Tribunal and that was when the minister said that we cannot wait around forever for this development to be done. Finbar had invested a lot of money in the project and the City of South Perth had supported it in good faith. The minister called it in and then only about a week ago made the decision to approve the development.
The development is going ahead. The minister has called for some modifications—I think they include a green wall or something like that—to improve the design and to meet with some of the things highlighted by the Government Architect. I believe that construction could start before the end of the year. It has been a long time coming. There are still people in my electorate who are concerned about more cars in the area; I respect their views. I have always had the belief that traffic finds a level in a lot of places. Many people who might be used to driving through South Perth are not from South Perth. They are probably coming from the electorate of the member for Victoria Park. He probably slips down Mill Point Road on his way into the city. But it is up to Main Roads Western Australia to look at these things. If there is congestion along Mill Point Road and Labouchere Road, it will only be during peak periods. I drive down those roads all the time and during the day I can be here in three or four minutes. Main Roads can look at those things.
I am aware that there is a plan—who knows what will happen, it will be up to whoever is in government at the time—to extend Berwick Street to the Swan River and to build a tunnel under the river so that people from out that way, such as the member for Victoria Park’s constituents, can whiz down through the tunnel and into the city or drive on to the western suburbs and come up into West Perth. That would be a fantastic thing and very welcomed by the people of South Perth because it would take a lot of that traffic heading into the city away from the City of South Perth. Who knows when that will happen or if it will ever happen, but we have to look at traffic management in and around South Perth in the future. I am aware that the minister has also mentioned that that is a need.
Mr P.J. Rundle: Member for South Perth, I have seen no sign of anything to do with traffic management. The Treasurer is going to be backed up to the causeway on his way to work each day.
Mr J.E. McGRATH: He can maybe stay at the member’s place for a couple of hours on the way through.
Mr P.J. Rundle: He might have to have breakfast on the way through.
Mr J.E. McGRATH: The member for Roe is also a resident in South Perth, like a lot of members of Parliament who have had a place in South Perth.
This winds of change will carry a new generation of residents and visitors to the South Perth electorate and times will change. New residents bring new ideas and energy. New visitors seek up-market and niche attractions and business opportunities will flourish for those who wish to provide them. We are already seeing that happen in Mends Street where a new Quest apartment has been built. People are now coming across the river on the ferry from Elizabeth Quay to Mends Street because it has been revitalised. This new development will see more people living and working in the precinct. However, on this breeze of change will be the expectations of long-term residents—whom I have spoken about—and newcomers alike and we have to cater for all those people. Young people will also move into South Perth. Young people like to live in apartments. South Perth must remain, as it historically has been, a functional and delightful place in which to live—we all know that. What happens on Mill Point peninsula will not impact the jacaranda trees in the beautiful leafy streets of South Perth. They will not be affected by greater density or by high-rise developments, which is ideal planning. Those streets will be left alone in South Perth so that it retains its beautiful functionality. While business is expected to do its part to attract and service a community, it is up to government to keep up with the pace by providing the infrastructure necessary to maintain a functional way of life. Having said that, I was gratified to hear the Minister for Planning also mention in her press conference the other day about Civic Heart the need for a railway station in South Perth. I would like to think that the minister is warming to this because it is a project that I have supported since I was elected. The proposed station on the Mandurah line will be built on land that has been set aside on the freeway.
In opposition, when I was first elected, I hounded the then Minister for Planning and Infrastructure for a train station at South Perth. I said, “You are building a train line from the city to Mandurah and you are bypassing South Perth.” I badgered her so much—hopefully, it was partly my doing, but I also know that the City of South Perth was very keen for some action—that Minister MacTiernan agreed, and the railway line on the freeway was widened to allow for a footprint for a station. It is all there ready to go. I believe that the City of South Perth has put forward some kind of business case to the department or the minister that could provide for a public–private partnership that would see the station delivered as part of a broader strategy. I think that is something that we have to look at. It happens in other parts of the world. There could be a public–private partnership, so the taxpayer would not even pay for a new station.
Around 750 000 people a year visit Perth Zoo. I know that it has always been a great thing for families to travel to the Zoo on the ferry, but people do not have the time that they used to when I was a young kid. A lady from Rockingham wrote a letter to the editor and said, “I took my two children to the Zoo. I had to go all the way to Perth on the train, walk across to the ferry, catch the ferry across to Mends Street, walk around all the way to the Zoo, cart them round for three hours at the Zoo and then take them home and go all the way back over on the ferry.” If there were a train station at Richardson Park, she would have had a 200-metre walk. Therefore, I think that it is something that we should have a look at.
I also think that the area between Richardson Park and the on-ramp to the freeway at the end of Labouchere Road will one day be like West Perth. It will one day be a commercial–residential development. A lot of people will come into South Perth to work in that precinct. Why would they not come by train? At least we would be getting people out of their cars. Why would someone drive their car to South Perth and battle to find a parking spot when they could jump on a train and walk to work? I think that is the future, and it is a big challenge for us, as parliamentarians, to convince people to get out of their cars, but I think it is the way of the future. It has to happen, but it will only happen if we build the infrastructure to make public transport easier for people.
The other project that has been a long time coming and that I advocated for from when I was first elected is the on-ramp to the freeway at Manning Road. I fought hard for that. I could not convince either the Labor government when it was in power or our government when it was in power, because the Department of Transport has a list, and the Manning ramp never got high enough up the list. We suffered there, but a couple of years ago the federal government put $20 million towards the ramp, Labor won the 2017 election and now Labor will be delivering the ramp. I am told that it will be delivered before the end of the year, which would be good, so I might have to go out there. I have already held a shovel and done a bit of sod-turning with the minister and Steve Irons, the member for Swan. We do not get to achieve a great deal in our political lives, especially big projects, but for me, in South Perth, that will be a good project. I do not know why Main Roads did not put this project higher up the list, but people on my side of the electorate said that it was a no-brainer. The people who go to Curtin University, the people who want to go to the new Fiona Stanley Hospital—at present, when they get to the end of Manning Road, they have to turn right, go up to the Canning Bridge, do another right-hand turn, do a U-turn, come back a couple of sets of lights and then head south again. It is going to happen, which is good, and I am very happy about that.
Recently, we had the Liberal Party conference in Bunbury. I met a lot of stakeholders from sport and recreation in Bunbury and they raised a couple of things with us. The first thing we need is for the KidSport funding to be lifted. A city like Bunbury has a lot of disadvantaged families, who would take advantage of KidSport. KidSport was one of the best things ever introduced. Hon Terry Waldron might have been the sports minister who introduced it. It was a great program. The people of Bunbury said, “If you can do that, it would be great,” so I have spoken to Minister for Sport and Recreation, Hon Mick Murray, and I hope to work with him to do that. Hands Oval is the historic, great old footy ground in Bunbury and the change rooms are a disgrace. They are not up to modern standards. The AFL said to the South West footy league, “If you want us to bring AFL teams down there for pre-season games, you gotta spend some money on it.” The plan is to spend $4.5 million. The minister is aware of the project and I know that he supports it. That is another thing that I will speak to the Leader of the Liberals about as we go to the next election. Maybe part of our policy will include some funding for Hands Oval, and we will be able to see some good AFL teams go down to Bunbury to play, as they did for many years. I remember that the Fremantle Dockers played Carlton at Hands Oval.