Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (6 June) . . Page.. 1996 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (11.11): I made some comments on the radio this morning about the style of government the ACT has at the present time. I particularly made a comment that, when it came to criticism, the government almost invariably quickly descended into name calling, playing the man and not the ball, and diversion into irrelevancies. We have seen that again here today from the Planning Minister. His first response to the serious concerns raised by Mr Smyth was: "Who is the real shadow minister? There is some problem with who your shadow minister is." As a serious public matter facing this territory, this issue deserves greater respect and attention than was exhibited today in the speech by Simon Corbell.
This territory has had a long experience with land development. This territory has been shaped by land development. A key force in the character of the ACT has been the way in which the land of this territory has been developed. So this Assembly has a strong, necessary interest in how we develop land in order to ensure that we do it in the best possible way. We are entitled to ask whether we are doing it in the best possible way, because on occasions in the past we have not done it in the best possible way. There have been some spectacular failures of public policy when it comes to land development in the ACT, even in the period since self-government-in fact, one might say particularly in the period since self-government.
Mr Corbell chose to refer to the policy of the past government. I would like to go back a little further to ventures in land development which were attempted by the previous Labor government, Mr Corbell's successor in government. I particularly think of episodes like the development of Harcourt Hill. A $100 million development the government proposed to enter into by way of a joint venture ultimately turned out to be an absolute disaster. To paraphrase the Auditor-General in his report subsequently, it probably cost the territory in the order of $20 million in losses. The ACT government of the day entered into a joint venture with a $2 shelf company on terms extremely unfavourable to the ACT taxpayer. The venture experienced difficulties, and there was no appropriate recourse against the joint venturer in those circumstances. That is an example of land development which was a disaster for this territory and cost this territory and the taxpayers of this territory dearly.
The question needs to be asked: what steps are being taken to ensure that this does not happen again, given that the government is once again moving into, according to its announced policies, the business of becoming a land developer? Their record is an abysmal one. It is a record of failure. They ask us today to take them on trust that they will be able to embark on the process of being a land developer once again without the problems that visited them and this territory when they were last in that position.
I do not think anybody in this territory ought to trust the government on such a matter. Nobody from the government benches ought to be looking other people in the eye and saying, "Hey, guys, we have just lost you $20 million on a land joint venture. It is okay. It does not matter." That is exactly what happened under the previous Labor government. The subsequent Liberal government got out of the business of joint development of land or government development of land, and as a result its land development policies were arguably very good. They certainly were not accompanied by the kinds of disasters which Harcourt Hill typified.