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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Thursday, 14 February 2008) . . Page.. 305 ..

I have suggested that in this case we have a solution and, frankly, there is no need either for an apology or for a further referral.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (5.28): I am not going to support Mr Pratt’s motion either. There is, I believe, one part of it that is very valid and while I expect the government to throw the whole motion out I believe that they could act on that one part, and I am going to suggest some other ways forward. I think that Mr Pratt’s motion overstates and oversimplifies the sequence of events. I do not know if he has had a briefing with Mr Hargreaves and his advisers. Like Mr Mulcahy, I sought a briefing. I am afraid it came a lot later than my actual request after basically the decisions had been made, but it did satisfy many of my concerns and, on reflection, I would like to suggest a different way forward from that proposed by Mr Pratt.

It is a surprise that the whole process has taken so long to sort out and that what appeared to be a good communication process with the Tharwa community at the start broke down as much as it did. However, I do support paragraph (3) of the motion, at least in terms of the call for the papers and the information that Mr Pratt was able to achieve through use of the Freedom of Information Act. I believe that those papers should be on the public record and part of my concern is that Mr Pratt is probably releasing parts of those papers in a selective fashion. To make an informed judgement, really the public should have access to the whole suite of papers. Therefore, even if Mr Pratt’s motion goes down, which I believe it will—I know it will—I believe that the government could still make those papers public. I will leave it at that.

Mr Hargreaves: They are FOI-able and we offered it to your office today.

DR FOSKEY: I said public, not just to me. I am not convinced that an inquiry by the planning and environment committee into the social and financial impact of the decision to close, demolish and then preserve the Tharwa bridge will serve anything other than perhaps a party-political purpose. I do not want to trivialise the impact of the bridge closure and the uncertainty that the length of time taken to make decisions about it has caused for that community, remembering that it is compounded by the school closure and a general sense of alienation that many local residents in Tharwa feel in regard to Canberra and the ACT government.

Perhaps the relationship between governments and communities is always fraught, but the decision to close the Tharwa school and to prevent, through last-minute legislation, a community school from setting up there and the incredible lack of support for the ongoing, lonely preschool that was once so well integrated into that school, undoubtedly still rankles. On top of that the impact of the fires is still being felt in terms of through-traffic. The economic and social impact of the bridge closure, on top of the fires and the school closure, has been substantial and that has a psychological as well as a material effect.

But I still do not support a pressured inquiry by a committee to give expression to that impact. I think it would get in the way of a good, clear look at the information, communication and decision-making processes for the replacement of the Tharwa bridge, and that would not be useful. By the way, I do not think this has been a one-way street. Government has a responsibility for assessing the condition of the bridge, deciding on what to do and putting a time line in place to address it.

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