Loss of Hospital Jobs means it is now time for the State to Invest in Freo

This morning Fremantle’s business leaders and Councillors attended a talk by Dr David Blythe; Executive Director of Fremantle Hospital and Health Service about the future of Fremantle Hospital.

What I don’t think many in the room expected to hear was that Fremantle was going to lose around 1900 local jobs – a drop from 3100 to 1200 full time equivalent hospital staff.

This is a major blow for the Fremantle economy and it would be fair to say that while many expected some reductions in beds no one expected a change in jobs of this magnitude to flow through.

The question now for the State government that has made this decision is: what is it going to do to help Fremantle through this transition? Hopefully far more than we have seen over the last decade  as Fremantle often feels like the place that respective state governments forgot.

Over the past decade, very little state government funding has flowed into Fremantle. There was a huge boost of funding before the America’s Cup Defence, but that was more than 25 years ago.

The Fremantle Maritime Museum was the last major project that was state-government funded. I challenge anyone to name any major state infrastructure or development funding that has flowed since.

It is not as though the dollars haven’t’ been there. The past decade has seen the mining boom take hold in WA and, as a consequence, the money has been flowing in and expenditure by the state government has increased accordingly—just not Freo’s way.

In recent years, hundreds of millions of dollars have been thrown at projects to rejuvenate the Perth CBD, from the development of Perth Arena and Stadium to the sinking of the rail line to the Perth Cultural Centre and the highly topical (and oddly-named) Elizabeth Quay. In Midland there is the amazing railways workshops project which the state has invested tens of millions of dollars in. Similarly, in Subiaco, East Perth and Armadale, serious state money has supported the rejuvenations of these town centres. Even Rockingham’s hospital is being expanded.

But Fremantle, Perth’s second city, hasn’t been treated to the same love and affections of late. Premier Barnett came to Freo in 2009 and said the council had two years to turn our economic fortunes around.

Well, Mr Premier, we have done our bit. Not only has Fremantle helped you edge towards your 2031 planning targets for slowing Perth’s unsustainable rate of urban sprawl (which now eclipses that of Tokyo and LA combined!) with ambitious and innovative amendments to our town planning scheme, but we have also embarked on the biggest public/private partnership Fremantle has ever seen with the $220m Kings Square project set to rejuvenate our CBD.

But there is only so much Fremantle can do by itself.

This is not about taking a swipe at one side of politics over the other. Both major parties have been guilty of benign neglect and shifting funding to marginal seats at the expense of Fremantle. In the past, this neglect may have even been partly understandable as Fremantle was seen as an almost impossible place to get approvals for any major redevelopment. However, in recent years the Fremantle council and community have shown this “no” and “less” attitude has now changed. It’s time for whichever state government we have after the election to assist Freo in its recovery.

Here are some essentials for state assistance over the next few years:

  • Lock-in and fast-track the shifting of a major government department of at least 1000 jobs into new offices in the centre of Fremantle’s CBD;
  • Build a new Fremantle traffic bridge with an integrated new rail line to get more trucks off our roads;
  • Invest in an integrated, transit-orientated development around the Fremantle train station to reconnect the Fremantle CBD to Victoria Quay;
  • Undertake a serious study of the feasibility of light rail to Fremantle’s south and east using greater density along these corridors to help pay for it; and,
  • Build affordable housing for key workers and seniors in the Fremantle CBD.

As Western Australians we all have a stake in Fremantle’s future, but a big part of this future rests on some important and far-reaching decisions that will be made by our state government in the next few years. Not being a marginal seat shouldn’t get in the way of us getting the support and investment we need to realise Fremantle’s collective vision as a rejuvenated, vibrant and sustainable regional centre.

This blog post is not a whinge—it’s an invitation to work together to make Fremantle a place of consequence again. It was Perth’s second city and can be once again.with just a little collaboration.

(This is an updated version of a Thinking Allowed I had in the Fremantle Herald last year)

About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

5 Responses to Loss of Hospital Jobs means it is now time for the State to Invest in Freo

  1. Sam says:

    Seniors in the Central City could be risky business if they move in and then complain about all the surrounding urban land uses. The opportunity for higher density housing in Freo has just as much risk as it does potential. Getting younger people into existing spaces, by waiving regulation (not an easy thing for an LG to do) is probably a faster and more desirable antidote than importing vertical nursing homes for the increasingly batty conservative baby boomer fraternity. Love your work Brad.

  2. Cathy Hall says:

    Yep, agreed Brad, but it beggars belief that….”many in the room (wouldn’t have) expected to hear was that Fremantle was going to lose around 1900 local jobs – a drop from 3100 to 1200 full time equivalent hospital staff.”…. that’s been a train crash waiting to happen when you are aware as I am (as a former staffer) of their significant employee stats! So what happens now?

  3. blairarnup says:

    And what Mr Mayor are you going to say to Sam above, describing many of your constituents as “increasingly batty conservative baby boomer fraternity”. It is entirely possible he is referring to a couple of the more frequent visitors in the so-called One Stop Shop, supposedly for the “over 55s” but where it is not possible to restrict visitors to that age group. When Mr Mayor are you going to give the older residents of Freo a place of their own to replace the place stolen about 7 – 8 years ago. What have you done for the Bridge Club which lost their home at about the same time as the Stan Reilly Centre! They have been wandering the wilderness looking for a home these last few years. When can we have a home of our own run by the people not the Council, as is the case with the One Stop Shop. What ever happens the “Shop” is run by the Council, not the users. When can we have a place similar to the Cockburn Seniors Centre, where at least we can run workshops away from the blow in visitors.

  4. Steve Wells says:

    Maybe its time to consider the impact of the death of cultural activity in Fremantle too. What impact does the Mayor think the movement of the Fly, close of Kulcha, Deck Chair etc. have on employment in our ghost town?

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