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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (10 March) . . Page.. 482 ..



Mr Speaker, it is a black-and-white question to be put to the Assembly today. The Minister has said it is an independent discussion paper. The documents reveal otherwise. He has misled this Assembly. When given the opportunity yesterday to refute that or to change his position, he did nothing. On 29 October last year the Minister released the discussion paper on rural residential development. At that time he said:

... today I am releasing for community consultation an independent discussion paper on rural residential development in the ACT.

He went on to say in his tabling statement:

The discussion paper was prepared as part of an independent study for the Territory by an expert team of planning and economic consultants ...

That is the Minister's statement, clear and unequivocal - an independent discussion paper. We had no reason and this Assembly had no reason to doubt the credibility of the Minister's statement. Whatever our individual views are on rural residential development, we must put them aside on this issue. We must ask: Was the Minister honest in presenting this document as an independent discussion paper?

I would like to draw members' attention to what "independent" means. I have gone to a very basic source, the Concise Oxford Dictionary. What does the dictionary say? It has a number of meanings of "independent". The two most relevant to this discussion are "not depending on authority or control" and "self-governing". The third meaning of "independence" which is most relevant to us is "not depending on others for one's opinion or conduct". I ask members to bear that in mind. Not being influenced in your opinion or conduct by others is what "independent" means. I made an FOI request relating to the development of the rural residential discussion paper. I received about 7,000 pages of documents. I made copies of about half of those. What has emerged is a very clear pattern of deliberate and significant change to the document to suit the Government's policy agenda. I will go through the documents one by one.

The first, and perhaps most significant, is a file note of a discussion from Mr Trevor Budge, the lead consultant on the rural residential development discussion paper, to Mr Lincoln Hawkins, the executive director of PALM. In this file note a range of concerns are raised as to the independence of his process for consultancy. One of the comments is this:

go much further and it is no longer their paper

That is the comment the consultant made to Mr Lincoln Hawkins - clear and unequivocal. That is what Mr Hawkins has said. Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table that document.

Leave granted.

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