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The Federal Government has rejected a call to provide Western Australia with more than $300 million that has been sitting dormant for almost a decade after being set aside for the failed Oakajee port and rail project.
WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt wrote to both his federal counterpart Scott Morrison and Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester last month requesting the cash be reinvested elsewhere in WA, specifically in another port project.
"The point I made in the letter is there is a range of different opportunities that it could be used for," Mr Wyatt said.
"Projects such as berth three at Port Hedland, dredging at Lumsden Point, potentially for the Fremantle outer harbour and Broome Port also has some infrastructure requirements."
In 2009, the Rudd government approved federal funding for the $4 billion Oakajee port and rail project which, if successful, would have formed the hub of a new iron ore district 25 kilometres north of Geraldton.
Since then, the Federal Government has kept the $339 million allocated for the project aside, with the money forming part of its $75 billion record infrastructure spend between now and 2020-21.
That is despite the project never making it beyond planning.
Mr Wyatt raised the topic when he met Mr Morrison in Perth this week.
"It's fair to say the Federal Treasurer hasn't actually shown great interest in ensuring that money stay in Western Australia," Mr Wyatt said.
"He certainly made the point that as Oakajee failed under the previous State Government, that [money] can't be allocated to other projects.
"I made the point crystal clear to him that West Australians see this as the broader GST debate."
Money specific to Oakajee: MorrisonIn a statement, Mr Morrison said the commitment from the Rudd Government was for an equity investment.
"It was not for grant funding and was specific to the Oakajee project," he said.
"It was not set up like a beer tab that was transferable.
"As everyone knows the project did not proceed and the WA Government withdrew its own investment, releasing the Commonwealth from any commitment.
"The Commonwealth is always happy to receive proposals on other projects and assess them on their merits, as I communicated to the WA Treasurer."
Mr Morrison said the Coalition Government had provided $1.2 billion to WA for infrastructure projects, more than four times the initial Oakajee offer.
This article first appeared on www.abc.net.au
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