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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 February 2010) . . Page.. 86 ..


the implementation of that policy in the form of the Alexander Maconochie Centre and its associated services.

It was with great frustration to me—and I am sure to you, Mr Assistant Speaker, as the responsible minister in November 2008 until quite recently—that the prison was not ready to commence operations as expected, and there was continuing frustration as those delays dragged on through to the end of the year and then into 2009. It was frustrating because it was beyond the control of the government and ACT Corrections.

The inquiry, when called, was welcomed by the government. It was an opportunity for the complexities of the project to be examined without the evaluation being reduced to electronic media sound grabs or misleading newspaper headlines. The government could put its position and concerns about the performance of the builder to the committee. It could do this in detail and trust that the weight of evidence would be properly assessed and, in doing so, establish clearly that the responsibility and control for the delays was not that of the government.

Notwithstanding the terms of reference of the committee, which included overtly political elements, such as an examination of the official opening ceremony in December 2008—which had nothing to do with the delays—I had faith that a committee process would deliver some positive outcomes. I was wrong. Seven long months after its final public hearing—seven months—and almost eight months after the prison had become operational, the committee brought down its report.

One would have thought that with all that time the report would have been of the finest quality, that the committee’s recommendations would have been based on findings which focused on the issue at hand—the reason for construction delays—and that those recommendations would be sharp and honed by the many reworkings that must have occurred to warrant a seven-month delay in the provision of the report.

One would have thought that the recommendations would have provided invaluable insight and potential improvements to the operation of government business. Sadly, this was not the case. Instead, we received a politically charged piece of rhetoric featuring unsound judgements, naive observations and a series of ineffectual recommendations. I was shocked at the time and let my feelings be known to the Assembly, and I am no less pleased now.

The report revealed that the committee had learned very little about the operation of building contracts or the building industry more generally. The failure to distinguish between, on the one hand, legitimate extensions or variations in contract completion date provided for under the contract and, on the other hand, the protracted delays beyond that agreed date, lumping all of these matters under the simple term “delays”, highlights this lack of understanding.

The naivety of such findings as finding 2—which says that when the committee visited the site on 4 February 2009, the AMC was not ready for handover—would be amusing if it did not reflect the ignorance of the committee’s considerations, which clearly lacked an understanding of the fundamentals required in examining any construction project. No, Mr Assistant Speaker, the AMC was not ready on 4 February when the committee visited the site. It would not be ready for another six


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