Federal Budget 2022: How the Coalition keeps ticking off Mark McGowan’s wishlist

If anyone was still wondering why Mark McGowan agreed to a joint press conference with Scott Morrison this month, they now have their answer.

The State Government was a big winner from the Coalition’s make or break pre-election Budget, which confirmed WA would be at the center of the campaigns for both parties.

Billions of dollars in new funding was secured in Josh Frydenberg’s fourth Budget, with all but a handful of items on the State’s infrastructure wish list getting the green light.

There was $4.3b for a large-vessel dry dock at Henderson, $1.5 billion for the Pilbara, $1.2b for roads and rail, $375m towards a new cancer center at QEII and $75m to cover the rising cost of labor and steel associated with Perth City Deal projects.

To put these figures in context, WA pocketed a 14 per cent slice of the nation’s infrastructure funding pie, which was 40 per cent above the State’s per capita share.

Few would realize it, but the Commonwealth is now bankrolling the Metronet railway expansion — the McGowan Government’s legacy project — to the tune of almost $3.5 billion. It’s just the latest example of how WA Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition have worked constructively to their shared benefit since McGowan came to power five years ago.

“Respectful” and “professional” is how insiders describe the “open door” relationship that has existed since 2017. Mathias Cormann, the former Liberal senator, was initially the key figure in delivering funding for WA, a mantle that has since been taken by Tangney MP Ben Morton.

Morton, one of Morrison’s closest advisers, negotiated with McGowan and WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti on this latest round of funding.

By contrast, Colin Barnett couldn’t secure a cent from Federal Liberal colleagues towards Optus Stadium and was at loggerheads with them over the now dead Perth Freight Link.

Morton was in the background of photographs and vision shown nationwide when McGowan appeared alongside Morrison on the Swan River foreshore this month.

The event took on greater prominence because McGowan was never seen publicly in WA with Anthony Albanese. What should have been a brief story confined to one or two days took on a life of its own when Federal Labor figures in WA whinged anonymously to journalists.

Albanese will have his own opportunities to appear chummy alongside McGowan over the next six weeks, but don’t expect the Premier to be the ALP’s frontman in the west.

Having had his face plastered all over campaign material in 2019, including on the side of a bus, McGowan received little gratitude from Federal Labor colleagues for his attempt to get the unpopular Bill Shorten into the Lodge.

Morrison, meanwhile, will continue to remind WA voters that no matter who they vote for at the Federal poll, McGowan will still be Premier the next day.

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