It was a packed house at the Fremantle Townhall, that overflowed onto Kings Square, on Tuesday evening for the RETHINK PERTH FREIGHT LINK forum with Federal politicians Allannah MacTiernan and Scott Ludlam and the Mayors of Fremantle, Cockburn, East Fremantle and Melville. The Maritime Union of Australia was represented as was the Residents and Ratepayers Association of Cottesloe.
North Freo comedian and author Ben Elton was the MC and started the night with a powerful speech telling the audience that we might need advise from Bronwyn Bishop on how to cart dead weight around. Container freight by helicopter? He also stressed this was a community issue and not a political one.
Mayor Brad Pettitt said the State had assured him the old railway bridge would be replaced in the future but all indications were the Barnett government wanted to duplicate the Stirling traffic bridge to accommodate more trucks to the port. It would cost at least $ 500 million to do that and would have a huge impact on East Fremantle. He said that 92% of vehicles using the proposed freight link would be private cars, not trucks.
Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett said the future is in our hands and there is a better way than the PFL. Don’t trash our heritage, culture and nature for a road to nowhere.
Alannah MacTiernan told the crowd that the PFL proposal came out of the blue as there had been no State Government plans for it and it was not in the budget either. It was pushed by the Federal Government that only wants to support and fund roads. She said plans for an outer harbour had been advanced and going on since 1996 by both the Liberal and Labor governments when in power. This is truly a disgrace! Her request for documentation had been rejected because the release of the documents would cause damage between the State and Federal governments. It is such a flawed process, she said.
Senator Scott Ludlam sprouted optimism saying he believed the forum was the critical mass moment as had happened with the Ningaloo Reef and James Price Point protests that were won by the community. He said this movement could achieve the same as the city of Portland in the USA where the community rejected more freeways and the government listened and built lightrail.
Ludlam made one very important observation we should all think about “What is all this stuff in those containers? It is stuff we might not actually need!” He is right that excessive consumerism is a huge part of the problem.
He said that the Melville people were being sold-out as those along Leach Highway believed the PFL is a solution, while it would create more trucks through Melville. “It is a bullshit waste of taxpayers’ money!”
Senator Ludlam suggested to set up funds to take legal action and slow the process down in the courts and got 50 people to hand over $ 100 each to start it off.
The Mayor of Melville who supports the PFL was brave to attend and said he was talking about people’s life and that the current road network was never designed to cope with the volume of traffic it had now.
Lawyer John Hammond, who is President of the Cottesloe Residents and Ratepayers Association, told the appreciative crowd that “In Cottesloe we are getting pissed off! We don’t want it!”
It was a good forum that could have been better with shorter speeches and a longer Q&A period, but it was positive that it was not a political Barnett government bashing but real concerns about lifestyle, communities, nature and the preservation of culture.
There are other options and the State and Federal governments should explore those before they make the huge mistake of building the Perth Freight Link to Fremantle Port that only has a limited time left until it reaches capacity. A new outer harbour port near Kwinana is essential but even that needs to be handled sensitively so that it has minimal impact on the communities and nature there.