Mark McGowan has promised if elected to do everything in his power to keep Riverside Drive open, including renegotiating Elizabeth Quay contracts which could significantly downscale the project.
The Labor Leader said this morning that any savings from the renegotiated contracts would go directly to subsidising parking at hospitals, which has ballooned significantly under the Barnett Government, enraging nurses.
In his second attack on major Barnett Government projects in as many weeks after promising to spike the Burswood stadium in favour of Kitchener Park, Mr McGowan said he was “disgusted” by Elizabeth Quay’s traffic snarls.
“One thing I would like to do is renegotiate what has gone on there at Elizabeth Quay,” he said.
“I want to make sure that Riverside Drive stays open. It’s traffic chaos in our city now, and if we can re-negotiate that and we can save a significant amount of money, I’d put that straight on to parking at hospitals.”
Mr McGowan said he was unable to speculate on how much could be saved from renegotiating the contracts and denied he was sending a vague message to voters.
“It’s a strong message to send to the people of WA that Elizabeth Quay is not my priority and closing Riverside Drive is not my priority and putting increased costs on nurses and other hospital workers for parking are not my priorities,” he said.
“Now, it’s a matter of what you can do. We know that contracts have been signed. We also know as has happened from time immemorial that there can be renegotiation of those. So if we can do that to keep Riverside Drive open, stop that traffic chaos and save the taxpayers money then that’s what I’ll do.”
When asked how he could possibly continue with the waterfront redevelopment without closing the Riverside Drive, Mr McGowan said: “We’ll do everything we can to keep Riverside Drive open. I’m not in government, but that’s my commitment.”
Mr McGowan said he could “not believe” the Barnett Government was planning to add a third lane to the Graham Farmer Freeway tunnel to cope with the closure of Riverside Drive despite the Victorian coroner recently declaring a similar move in that State dangerous.
But Mr Barnett defended the project, claiming the development would become an inner-city “pond” if a Labor government was elected.
“Elizabeth Quay is well into construction, a $200 million contract has been awarded, and work continues,” Mr Barnett said.
“The whole idea is opening up the river and the city together so having a wide expanse of water. If you left Riverside Drive what you would have is a pond in the city. Not much point.”
A Parliamentary committee last year found the Government’s parking fee increases of between 13 and 53 per cent at six public hospitals constituted a “tax” because they went beyond legitimate cost recovery.
Australian Nursing Federation members dressed as bees highlighting the “sting” of fee increases have followed Premier Colin Barnett on the campaign trail during the past month.