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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 1 Hansard (14 February) . . Page.. 310..


MR SESELJA (continuing):

community or in the Canberra community—who is watching this would actually believe that to be the case.

I endorse this motion. I endorse Mr Pratt's approach. I think Mr Pratt has shown faith with the community, he has worked hard with the community, he has taken up the concerns of his electorate and fought for them, which is completely the opposite of the approach taken by his Brindabella colleague Minister Hargreaves.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (5.45), in reply: In this debate we heard from the minister that I was only quoting selectively from a pile of FOI documents. Of course, when I have a suitcase full of documents, I can't quote them all here this afternoon. I certainly did make the point in the debate that time precluded me from addressing a range of issues.

Mr Hargreaves is right: I certainly have information and evidence in these documents which indicate that the old bridge was unstable; that the Bailey insertions had been placed there because one or two of the sections were moving. Mr Hargreaves is absolutely right, and we have always acknowledged that. That is exactly why the old bridge had to remain closed until restoration work could commence. We have never said, "Reopen the bridge now because we think it's safe."We have always acknowledged that restoration work had to commence. We have always said, and we have said this publicly, that we believe this would take three months—three months of restoration work to stabilise the old bridge to get it to the point where it could reopen to light traffic.

If the opposition has been saying consistently that we knew you would require three months to restore the old bridge then clearly we knew that the bridge was unstable. So it can be taken as read that the opposition knew that the old bridge was unstable. It was not necessary for me to pull out, from my box of documents, documents indicating that the old bridge was unstable. The minister was right; I do not know quite why he was making the point—perhaps simply to divert from the truth of the matter.

I have today quoted from documents from the FOI package which indicate that, from May 2005, there was a clear intention that the government's preferred option was a concrete bridge. Despite the nine options looked at by the consultancy group, GHD, when they talked to the Tharwa community, despite the nine options canvassed as to what might be done with the Murrumbidgee River crossing at Tharwa, from May 2005 there were strong indications, and the documents are here—there is no time to quote from all of those documents today—that indicate a strong leaning towards a concrete replacement bridge.

The minister might be right: the engineer email that I have seen stated that the particular engineer was present at a meeting in May 2005 when the engineer thought that the minister had said he favoured a low-level crossing as a temporary measure, he favoured urgent restoration works as a temporary measure—but pending a concrete bridge permanent replacement. Whether the engineer is right or whether Mr Hargreaves is right about the May 2005 meeting on the issue of the low-level crossing is almost a moot point in any case. The most important point is that we have witnesses in May 2005 demonstrating that they understood that the government wanted eventually to get to a permanent concrete bridge crossing.


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