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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 13 Hansard (4 December) . . Page.. 4382 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Quite apart from the allegations made there about governments, not just this Government, there is a very serious slur on the professionalism of ACT public servants - the bureaucracy to which he refers. If Mr Powell has allegations of collusion between government members, public servants and developers, he owes it to the debate he has initiated to put that evidence on the table and let us all see what it is. I have not seen, in my time as Minister for Planning - and I dare say I speak for some of my predecessors - any evidence of that kind of corruption or collusion as referred to.

Ms McRae: And Stein did not find it either.

MR HUMPHRIES: Indeed, as Ms McRae points out, the Stein inquiry, which was called partly to investigate those things, did not find any evidence of that either.

I might say, however, that I was amused by the comments also because of the irony of the comments made by Mr Powell. Members may have seen the book Reluctant Democrats which was launched only last week - a book by Philip Grundy, Bill Oakes, Lynne Reeder and Roger Wettenhall about self-government. It makes some fascinating reading in terms of some of the things that are said, particularly about Mr Powell. Members might like to read page 171, where the authors say:

This issue -

that is, the issue of the increase in the number of office buildings in the city, which is still a familiar issue -

came to a head under Scholes, whose ignorance of Canberra's planning principles combined with Powell's belligerence as Commissioner of the NCDC to provoke widespread hostility.

Listen to this, Mr Speaker:

It was easy to cast the commission and the minister as the villains in the play, suspected of being in league with interstate developers, and their opponents did not hesitate to do so.

How the worm has turned, Mr Speaker. Another quote from the same page reads:

The all-powerful NCDC was seen to have feet of clay; people who had hitherto been indifferent began to take an interest in planning matters and to protest. And many became infuriated by their sense of powerlessness.

Powell responded with actions calculated to reinforce that sense. When his opponents complained vociferously about the shortage of parking in Civic created by the increase in office accommodation, he had the grassy slopes of City Hill torn up and replaced, almost overnight, by vast areas of bitumen car park, half of which remain largely vacant to this day. Such actions were perceived as arrogant and contemptuous of public opinion.

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