Page 298 - Week 01 - Thursday, 14 February 2008

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We are then advised by the Tharwa residents that when the minister consults with the residents of Tharwa, he says, “Look, there are no options. The old bridge will fall into the river. The bridge is going to fall into the river. There is no option; there must be a concrete bridge.” And of course the community reluctantly goes along with that. By this time the Tharwa community has been severely disadvantaged by the closure. They have been in a state of uncertainty about the future of the whole bridge and therefore the future of Tharwa, and they reluctantly agree.

Sadly, of course, this agreement by the Tharwa community splits the Tharwa community. The minister comes into this place and in question time he announces to us here that the community were happy with the new bridge option. So the opposition take the minister at his word and we say: “Fine, if that is your decision, that you have to go along with a concrete bridge, okay. We therefore encourage you to hasten that project. Get on with it. The Tharwa community have been at a disadvantage and we want you to get on with it.”

But, of course, beyond that point, what we see unravelling is the true situation of the old bridge, and the engineering evidence starts to come forward—the engineering evidence that the minister and his people did not pursue, scrutinise, identify well before October 2006—that for less than $9 million you could restore the old bridge, you could do it much more quickly, you could do it within about six to eight weeks perhaps, three months at the latest, then reopen the bridge to light traffic load, while over a further 12 to 15 months go on and further strengthen the old bridge to a 44-tonne capacity.

Instead, we had this charade where the minister announced a $10 million project and, of course, preliminary work commenced on that new concrete bridge. What we want to see in this inquiry is how much money was spent in the preliminary works for the concrete bridge. How much money was wasted in the preliminary works for a new concrete bridge when, 18 months before—at best, if not longer—the government should have known and made a better decision to restore the old bridge, at a much cheaper cost, and therefore open that crossing to a beleaguered Tharwa community.

Time again precludes me from describing in great detail the pressures the Tharwa community have been under. I therefore commend this motion and call for an Assembly inquiry, for the planning and environment committee to have a look at this and explain what has gone wrong.

MR HARGREAVES (Brindabella—Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Housing, Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (5.07): The government will be opposing this motion, another desperate step in Mr Pratt’s effort to build a whole career on the Tharwa bridge. Actually, aside, this was the most pathetic effort to build a case from Mr Pratt, who has something like 600 pages of information obtained under FOI that he has had for six months. He knows only too well that those papers show a different picture than he portrays here today.

Unfortunately, he does not accept that the bridge is, in fact, a rickety structure that requires substantial expenditure and time to repair. I warn his colleagues opposite, through your good offices, Mr Speaker, to be careful what they say when they trust in

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