Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 9 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 2650..
MR PRATT (Brindabella) (4.34): I wish this afternoon to talk about the Tharwa fair which occurred on the Sunday before last, and which I was most privileged to attend. Despite the closed bridge affair, there was still a pretty reasonable roll-up, although some of the community leaders thought that attendances were somewhat down. Nevertheless, it seemed to me to be a pretty robust affair and well attended. The Tharwa preschool put on an extraordinary range of events—everything from music and bands to sack races and raffles, clowns and jumping castles. It was a great day for the kids. My little daughter, Yasmina, enjoyed herself immensely and spent all my pocket money.
Beyond that, the fair was blessed with the presence of Indigenous dancers, pretend belly dancers—pretend they might have been but they were extraordinarily good belly dancers—and there was a drumming band which put on quite a show. Karim Haddad, who is one of the more active members of the community—his name will be well known here—had his outdoor blacksmith demonstration going. I was pleased to see that the Liberal federal candidate for the seat of Canberra, Natalie Colbert, was also there.
Mr Hargreaves: Who?
MR PRATT: Natalie Colbert and her team. Indeed, it was pleasing to see that the southern branch of the Liberal Party was down there in strength, with about 20-odd members showing their solidarity with the Tharwa community, which is under siege by this government. So they were there in strength and in solidarity with their colleague Tharwans, and it was a great little affair. Of course, the pall in the atmosphere hanging over the Tharwa fair was the state of the Tharwa bridge and the questions revolving around what is happening with the old bridge and what is happening with any works that need to be urgently done to bring some relief to that poor community.
The pall hanging over the little preschool and Tharwa village was the fact that that poor community had a very viable and very popular primary school that was closed—a closure which was unnecessary. On top of that, there is the issue of the closed bridge. The closed bridge comes on the back of at least 18 months of to-ing and fro-ing as to what might be happening with the bridge. Closed one minute, open the next, and still neglected.
The Tharwa community and others in the ACT have asked this government for the engineering evidence and the logistical advice supporting any decision to close that bridge and to declare that bridge "beyond economic repair". This has not been forthcoming. Again, we have seen a lack of consultation. Yes, the minister was down in that community in October 2006, announcing that he would be proceeding with a concrete bridge project. That is all well and fine, but at no time did that community ever receive clear advice as to why the old bridge had to go.
I now refer to Mr Brian Pearson's interview on 2CC this morning. The ex-chief engineer of the department of main roads, heading up the New South Wales