Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1493..
MR PRATT (continuing):
This has been a very, very disappointing exercise on the part of the government. I am going to outline a few matters here. There is no doubt that the gas-powered station and data storage facility is a very worthwhile project and will be beneficial to the ACT in terms of its broader economic needs. But until we are sure of that and until we know what the environmental issues are, we cannot be entirely sure.
I would have thought, on the basis of what I have been able to glean so far, that this is quite an impressive project. If it is sited in the right place to ensure that environmental—in terms of emissions and in terms of noise—concerns are addressed, and we can guarantee that there is no impact on suburban Canberra, then clearly it is going to be of benefit to the ACT. But until we know that for sure, you must question the usefulness of this project if, as is currently planned, it remains sited at Macarthur.
There has been no consultation. In fact, this consultation question is very, very interesting. I would put it to you, Mr Speaker, there has been more consultation for a road repair project than we are witnessing for what is a proposed $2 billion project, with all of its associated and potential risks. No wonder the residents of Macarthur are deeply angry about this. As Mr Gentleman, Mr Smyth and I witnessed at the Tuggeranong Community Council special meeting on Monday week last, the concerns are deep. Only token consultation has ever been conducted thus far.
What does this indicate? I do not have the evidence to say that this is the case, but when a $2 billion project is not prior consulted in adequate terms, you have got to wonder why it has been allowed to be pushed beneath the radar, as has definitely been the case here. Is this project a fait accompli? I have been somewhat comforted by some of Mr Barr's words here this morning, on the back of Dr Foskey's and Mr Smyth's remarks here today. I hope it is not, therefore, a fait accompli and I hope that Mr Barr is true to his word and there will be adequate assessment, analysis, consultation and a really good hard look at the other 15 or so kilometres of broadacre space that we have along the eastern fringe of Canberra and whether or not there is a better site.
There has been some confusion over this. Last year, there was talk about this facility being put in Hume. Lay people like me did not take particular notice of what that actually meant, and certainly the residents did not. It was not until really February and March that the penny began to drop. The question has to be asked: why has the government allowed that to occur? Why has not the government been much clearer in the pushing of a $2 billion project? This has got to be one of the largest projects the ACT has ever seen.
Yet what did we see? In Bugden Avenue, Gowrie, we see a large number of signs proposing that Bugden Avenue is going to be changed in its alignment. In this particular case, we see a small yellow sign for the proposed Macarthur gas-powered plant project, a fraction of the size of those signs in Bugden Avenue, placed on a fence down on Long Gully Road. Finally people began to see it and read it and say, "What is all this about? Why is that? Why is a $2 billion project, with possible environmental impacts, not broadly consulted to the community in an appropriate, democratic, prior consultative fashion?"