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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 3 Hansard (9 March) . .

Page.. 807..

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

MADAM SPEAKER (Mrs Dunne) took the chair at 10 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Government Procurement (Capital Metro) Amendment Bill 2016

Mr Coe, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MR COE (Ginninderra) (10.02): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Madam Speaker, this bill is about government transparency. The ACT government is proposing to spend $700 million constructing a light rail line in Canberra. My bill seeks to amend the Government Procurement Act so that the government is not allowed to use commercial-in-confidence to stop the publication of important sections of the proposed light rail contract. The proposed light rail project would be the largest infrastructure project ever committed to by an ACT government. It is right and proper that if the government goes ahead and signs a contract, it should be disclosed in full to taxpayers, who will pay well over $1 billion for this project over the next couple of decades.

I acknowledge an instinctive desire for all companies to keep their business affairs private. I understand that a public interest test should be applied to government information. In some cases there is an overwhelming public interest that sufficient information is provided so that Canberrans can judge the merits of the project and hold the government to account for their decisions. The opposition firmly believes capital metro falls into this category.

In previous contracts the ACT government has readily used commercial in-confidence clauses to hide the details of things such as pricing schedules and performance indicators. I note that the ACT government has published an estimated construction price of $698 million for the first stage of light rail. What is not revealed, and indeed may be hidden, is the pricing schedule listed to the contract: what amount will we pay to Canberra Metro and when? For instance, when will the ACT government seek to back end the contract? In the determination to make this project appear more affordable, will the government seek to limit payments in the first years of the contract in order to back end the contract so it looks better than it actually is? Only releasing the full light rail financials will be able to fully answer this question.

Whilst the capital metro business case provides an estimate for the operating and maintenance costs of light rail, there is every chance that the ACT government can conceal updated operating and maintenance costs based on commercial-in-confidence

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