Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 14 February 2008) . . Page.. 303 ..
The economic situation coupled with the changed desires of the Canberra public have meant that we will restore the old bridge. Understand this: it will take only light traffic for a good couple of years. We were trying to build something that would last 100 years and carry 44 tonnes immediately, but such is not going to be the case now. In fact, now we have to also prevent buses and trucks from going across that particular bridge—and we will do that.
I am very pleased that the Chief Minister has said that we will find the funds to restore the old bridge. You might recall that my statement has always been that we should get on and build the bridge and that later we would decide what could happen with the old bridge, after community consultation and more expert advice from heritage and the environment. Now we can put those two together.
MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (5.22): It is not surprising that this motion is being debated today. Given the media coverage, I expected to see this or something similar to it on the notice paper this week. I am pleased to have this discussion, but I am conscious of the limited amount of time that is available to debate this motion and I will keep my remarks brief.
The bridge issue has received a lot of coverage over the last few months and is certainly worthy of debate in this place. Certainly, the issue has not been the best example of government management that we have ever seen. The underlying fact of the situation is that Tharwa bridge was first closed in April 2005 for safety reasons and almost three years later the bridge remains closed. Delays over the future of the Tharwa bridge have caused that community significant inconvenience and it is worth noting that delays will continue for some time.
I will take some time today to consider the situation and discuss the facts that I have been provided with about the issue. It is a matter of public record that the government ventured down one path before altering its approach and, as of 18 January, has committed approximately $14 million to the restoration of the existing Tharwa bridge. Mr Pratt’s motion firstly calls on the Assembly to note a series of statements. I will focus my remarks primarily on the motion’s second and third points, which call on the ACT government to apologise to the Tharwa community and refer the issue to the Standing Committee on Planning and Environment:
In considering the need for the government to apologise, it is worth noting, as others have already done, that other bodies and individuals have changed their position on the Tharwa bridge as well. The Chief Minister, in question time on Tuesday, outlined the changed position of the shadow minister. Mr Pratt and others set out clear support for the government’s initial reaction. I will not go into Mr Pratt’s conflicting positions in the same detail that the Chief Minister did, but raise it only to show how positions can change. I do, however, give credit to Mr Pratt on this issue. I know that he has pursued it vigorously on behalf of his electorate and his work as a local member is to be commended. I am sure that had his colleague from the south demonstrated a little less juvenile behaviour today he might have been in here as well to give us his perspective.
The government set out on a course of action in October 2006 that would have provided a solution to this problem. It opted to construct a new bridge in light of the