Page 1738 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 4 May 2005

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There are aspects of it with which I agree, there are parts that I am not sure about, and there are aspects that I believe need to be modified or improved. However, I believe that it is an excellent contribution to a debate that needs to be had. I think that it provides a good framework to further the debate. I think that in a number of important respects it is superior to the plan which has been put forward by Mr Corbell, not least of which is the fact that Mr Corbell’s plan would bring more traffic into the city centre and turn City Hill into a huge roundabout.

It is absolutely crucial that, before a decision is made on city centre planning, a wide-ranging debate take place in the community, quickly and effectively, so that progress can be achieved. The living city plan is an example of effective community input. It has precipitated discussion amongst ordinary Canberrans, who are now talking about how they would like their city centre to look in the future.

I therefore find it odd and quite disappointing that the planning minister has failed to promote or even to accept the living city plan as an alternative for discussion. He does appear to be threatened by having an alternative plan being presented to the community. On radio last Friday, Mr Corbell said that it was inappropriate for people with a lot of money, influence and contacts—meaning, I guess, Terry Snow—to seek to unduly influence the planning process. My question to Mr Corbell is this: what is inappropriate about Mr Snow’s behaviour? How is he seeking to unduly influence this process?

He is a man who has spent his own money to flesh out ideas he has for the future of Canberra and he has presented the ideas to the government and then to the community through the Canberra Times. He was, in fact, responding to a call from the Chief Minister for local businessmen and entrepreneurs to contribute to the future of our city. How does Mr Corbell respond? He says that he does not want to see the process unduly influenced. He even said that he does not want to see the process railroaded.

Was he suggesting that, by making public his view, Mr Snow was unduly influencing the process, or that he was railroading the process? In the context of the conversation on ABC radio last Friday, no other reasonable conclusion can be drawn. Another interesting thing that Mr Corbell said last Friday in relation to the issue was that it was important that the process be a public one. What could be more public than a four-page spread in the Canberra Times? Mr Snow was not exactly seeking to hide his plan.

These defensive, ridiculous responses that we have seen from the planning minister demonstrate his real position on this issue. In the minister’s mind, it is not about what is best for Canberra. It is about his control over what happens in Canberra. If the ideas did not originate with Mr Corbell or from within the Labor government, they could not possibly have any merit; they could not possibly be good if they originated with a local developer.

That leads me to one of Mr Corbell’s biases as a minister—his bias against local developers. We saw that demonstrated when Mr Corbell improperly commented during the tender process for the new suburb of Forde. Mr Corbell said that he would prefer to see the contract awarded to an interstate developer, like those from Sydney or Melbourne, so as to avoid “higgledy-piggledy” developments. Mr Corbell’s position appears to be that, preferably, any plans for the future of our city should come from him or his department, if it is left with adequate staff after yesterday’s budget. If they have to

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