Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese has called on Colin Barnett to explain why the Oakajee port project has not made better progress more than three years after the Commonwealth pledged $340 million towards the scheme.
Amid growing infrastructure pressures from WA's growing economy, Mr Albanese was asked if the money could have been spent more productively elsewhere.
"We allocated more than $300 million on the basis of a request from the WA Government," he said. "We did that in our Budget in 2009. That's 3½ years that that money has been available.
"With regards to Oakajee, I've been concerned and I've expressed my concern to the Premier for some time that this project hasn't been proceeded with.
"When we were originally approached, the timeframe would have seen construction well under way by now, if not just about completed."
Mr Albanese said the funding came after a "particular request" from Mr Barnett.
"I want to see the Oakajee port go ahead; that's our starting point," he said. "I understand that infrastructure projects sometimes are difficult.
"And Oakajee has been difficult. But we do need to look at getting some port infrastructure so we do take the pressure off the port here at Fremantle and we take pressure off other ports up and down the WA coast."
Mr Barnett dismissed Mr Albanese's concern, saying the State commitment of $340 million would remain on the books and that the Federal contribution was "secure".
"I don't know what Mr Albanese is on," he said. "I've been confident with both prime ministers Rudd and Gillard that the Commonwealth commitment is strong to this project."
Mr Barnett insisted the deepwater point would eventually be built, though he could not put a time frame on it.
"There is 13 billion tonnes of magnetite iron ore in the Mid West," he said.
"Chinese, Japanese, Australian interests have invested $3 billion.
"It's going to happen, although it's obviously not going to happen in the near future."
Mr Barnett compared Oakajee's difficult path with the North West Shelf gas project, which was built more than 20 years after gas was first discovered, and the Ord stage 2 expansion.
"Big projects, visionary, nation-building projects are difficult and complex," he said.
"And we're talking about over $7 billion investment in this project by various interests. That's a lot of money in a difficult international environment."'I've expressed my concern that this project hasn't been proceeded with.'" *Anthony Albanese *
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