Out-Law Analysis | 19 Mar 2021 | 9:42 am | 3 min. read
The landslide victory for Labor in the recent Western Australian elections is likely to lead to an enlarged programme of infrastructure upgrades in the state.
Under the leadership of Mark McGowan, Labor has secured at least 52 of the 59 seats in the lower house of the Parliament of Western Australia, with one seat still to be declared but looking like it will fall to Labor, as well as 24 of the 36 seats available in the parliament's upper house.
That result is expected to drive state government investment in education, transport and health infrastructure in particular, though during the campaign, McGowan also indicated that Labor would earmark public funds to support greater take-up of electric vehicles and the decentralisation of the energy network.
The most costly health infrastructure project in the pipeline in Western Australia is the AU$1.8 billion new Women and Babies Hospital at the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre
With a substantial mandate secured to fulfil its pre-election pledges, it is likely that the Labor government will press ahead with its plans to upgrade schools across Western Australia.
Before the election, Labor committed to spend AU$219 million ($170.7m) on school upgrades.
A new high school is to be built in Piara Waters to the south of state capital Perth, while Duncraig Senior High School is to be expanded and other facilities such as those at Rossmoyne Senior High School and Greenwood College are to be rebuilt. Other education centres are to receive upgraded classrooms, sports facilities or – in the case of Balga Senior High School – a new performing arts centre.
The most costly health infrastructure project in the pipeline in Western Australia is the AU$1.8 billion ($1.4bn) new Women and Babies Hospital at the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre. Works are expected to commence in 2023.
Other health infrastructure projects expected to be delivered by the new Labor government include the construction of two centres to support improvements in mental health care. Total investment of AU$361.6m ($281.8m) over four years was promised to support mental health service provision, including AU$86.7m ($67.6m) for the construction of two new mental health emergency centres and behavioural assessment urgent care centres in Rockingham, to the south-west of Perth, and Armadale, a suburb of Perth.
In addition, a 20-bed rehabilitation facility is to be built in central Perth to provide round-the-clock care to people seeking to overcome drug addiction. The Immediate Drug Assistance Coordination Centre was described by Labor as an "Australian-first" and, in addition to having provision for overnight stays, will serve as a drop-in hub. The new centre could be operational by July next year and is expected to cost AU$39.7m ($30.9m) to construct.
A further AU$152m ($118.5m) redevelopment and expansion of the Peel Health Campus in Mandurah has been promised.
As part of the MetroNet plans, the Labor government has pledged an AU$24m ($18.7m) overhaul of the Smartrider ticketing system
A significant road building program, much of which is already underway, is expected to continue. More than AU$5 billion ($3.9bn) was spent on roads by the McGowan administration during his first term in office.
New road projects include the upgrading of some roads in the fast-growing Byford area, while McGowan also pledged to build a new Mandurah Estuary Bridge, effectively duplicating the volume of traffic that can currently pass over the existing bridge.
Progress is also expected on another of the infrastructure projects commenced during McGowan's first term – the expansion of the AU$1.1bn ($860m) MetroNet rail system to better connect the suburbs of Perth. As part of the MetroNet plans, the Labor government has pledged an AU$24m ($18.7m) overhaul of the Smartrider ticketing system to support more seamless commuter transactions, including via smartphone.
The McGowan administration is also expected to deliver on its AU$21m ($16.4m) electric vehicle strategy during the next parliament, having outlined plans to boost electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Western Australia.
Among the other major spending plans announced by Labor in Western Australia are plans to fund the construction of two new police stations, in Baldivis and Forrestfield, and to provide community sports clubs with a share of AU$165m ($128.6m) to upgrade their infrastructure. A further AU$97m ($75.6m) has been earmarked to improve tourism infrastructure in the state.
Plans to develop 1,000 standalone power stations across regional Western Australia are also expected to be taken forward, signalling the Labor government's intention to decentralise the state's energy network and reduce the reliance on fossil fuels. This project is projected to cost AU$218m ($169.9m).
While there had been significant debate pre-election about the parties' costings of planned expenditure, Western Australian coffers are currently being swelled by the high price of iron ore. This is likely to encourage further spending commitments to be outlined by the Labor government in the weeks and months ahead.
A further development expected is the re-introduction and, potentially swift, passage of the Building and Construction Industry (Security of Payment) Bill 2020. The draft legislation will, once passed, bring the Western Australian security of payment regime into the Australian 'East Coast' model with some Western Australian peculiarities including a prohibition on contractual "time bars" for time and cost claims under construction contracts. .