Page 3366 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 20 September 2005

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MRS BURKE: When can the former residents of Pierces Creek expect an answer on the future of the settlement and when will the rebuilding of the 12 public housing properties at Pierces Creek commence?

MR STANHOPE: The derisory response that the commonwealth gave to its own parliamentary committee inquiry into Pierces Creek, which was essentially two pages of background and a half-page response to such a significant issue, gives members some indication of the difficulties that the government has faced in relation to Pierces Creek.

That was 13 months ago. The report of a joint federal parliamentary committee inquiry into the future of Pierces Creek was brought down in August last year. The government responded last week, 13 months after the report was tabled. The report is 2½ pages long in toto. The first two pages provide the background to the destruction of the village. The third page, which is not a full page, is the commonwealth government’s response. It is derisory.

The way in which the commonwealth has treated the residents of Pierces Creek throughout this process is appalling. There is no description of the way in which the commonwealth has approached this particular issue other than that it is an appalling and insensitive response to the residents of Pierces Creek.

As everybody knows, we commissioned a detailed sustainability study in relation to each of the rural villages. That sustainability study on the future of Pierces Creek indicated to the ACT government that, in order to construct or rebuild a sustainable community into the future, it would require in the order of 50 houses. One can imagine the logic and the sense of that. How sensible and how obvious is it that, in order to create a real community, a live community, a sustainable community, there needed to be a critical mass? Our advice was that the number was 50. Through all the negotiations, the permutations, the attempts at negotiation, contact between me and respective ministers, we put that particular point.

When the joint standing committee report came down, which suggested that the ACT and commonwealth governments negotiate, I agreed immediately, on the day the report was delivered, that the ACT government was willing to engage in an open process of negotiation to achieve an outcome that was deliverable and that was in the interests of all, that met some of the concerns of the commonwealth and dealt with the issues that the ACT government faces. I agreed on the day the report was tabled to reduce the ACT government’s desired position of 50 houses to 25 and asked the commonwealth to meet me. I responded on the day—from 50 to 25—and then waited.

I have now waited for 13 months for the commonwealth to come back in the spirit of the committee recommendation to meet me, to meet me somewhere—hopefully, at 25—to move one inch to indicate that they did have some concern for the residents of Pierces Creek. No. None. Not any movement.

As the commonwealth knows, in the face of conflicting advice from the ACT government’s legal advisers and from ACTPLA, it is not a simple matter of going out and rebuilding houses. The land has not been subdivided. It is a single piece of land on

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