Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (28 May) . . Page.. 755 ..
MR CORBELL (continuing):
It raises serious concerns, Mr Speaker, that some businesses have access to the highest levels of government and others do not. It is particularly concerning in light of a previous application for use of the land by another developer which was rejected by the Government in 1996.
Mr Speaker, why is it that one developer who makes a formal application through the Land Act gets rejected on approaching the Government and another, through informal approaches, gets Cabinet approval for his exclusive arrangement? And why does the Government make a decision which it has been advised will result in an adverse reaction from the industry affected because of the perception of favourable treatment? On these two points alone, it is quite clear that the Government's decision in relation to this affair was seriously flawed. The Assembly has very strong grounds for suggesting and indicating to the Government that it has grave concerns over the Government's processes. (Extension of time granted) If the Assembly believes that open and accountable government must be enhanced and strengthened in the Territory, these actions underline the importance of sending the Government a message that the Assembly has serious and grave concerns over its conduct in this matter.
Mr Speaker, the conduct of the Government has been questionable in this entire process. Yet the reason why the Government claims the whole deal is off is, perhaps, of the greatest significance of all because it goes to the point of what the Government knew prior to entering into this exclusive arrangement. The Government has claimed that the developer cancelled the preliminary agreement with the Government because his written authority from the leaseholders did not extend to the three leases he needed, but applied only to one. That has been the excuse that the Government has given us. Mr Speaker, now that we have addressed the nonsense which is the claim about written authorities and presumptive rights, the Government must state what its knowledge was of the status of the leases concerned prior to the Cabinet decision of 22 December.
Mr Speaker, why is this an important question? It is important because the Government has claimed that the deal was cancelled because the developer had rights over only one lease, instead of three, and that it discovered this only in the past fortnight. Yet, Mr Speaker, on 22 August the then Minister for the Environment, Land and Planning wrote to the president of the Hall and District Progress Association outlining the Government's knowledge of the leases that the Boltons held. And what was the Government's knowledge of this matter? I quote the Minister from his letter:
I understand the Boltons' lease is over the area now known as Block 630 (as shown on the attached plan) and is leased on a month to month basis.
Not that the Boltons' lease is over block 630 and two other blocks, or even over block 630 and one other block. The Government knew in August last year that the Boltons' lease, the Hillview property, consisted of one block - one lease, not three. Mr Speaker, how can the Government claim that the whole reason the deal is off is that they have suddenly discovered that Mr Whitcombe held only one lease, instead of three, when they knew that on 22 August last year? That makes no sense, Mr Speaker. That raises serious concerns about why the Government really has seen this deal fall through. The excuse they have given is completely inadequate.