Page 311 - Week 01 - Thursday, 14 February 2008
I have not said here today—even though I have heard it on many occasions, because I do not have documentary evidence—that the minister had intended to destroy the old bridge. Those discussions are going on around the place. The minister might want to comment on those rumours. At this point I treat them as rumours. I do not see any documentary evidence indicating that the minister had intended to crush the old bridge. If the minister thinks we were waging an unfair attack on him, perhaps I would have said here today that he had an intention to destroy the old bridge. I am putting to you, Mr Speaker, that in the motion I have moved, the call for an apology and an inquiry is balanced. This is a balanced motion that is based on the evidence.
Going back more than two years, Mr Brian Pearson, an ex-New South Wales DMR engineer—I think the Department of Main Roads nowadays is known as the New South Wales RTA—had said that the old bridge could be restored economically. Why wasn’t that sort of information taken notice of by this government? I am absolutely disappointed that the crossbenchers here today have not cared to scrutinise the government on this matter, yet a lot of community concern has been expressed regarding what the hell has happened with the whole Tharwa bridge crossing saga. There has been a community outcry, not only simply from the tight-knit Tharwa community grouping but also from people who are deeply involved in ACT heritage right across the ACT, and from Canberrans right across the Tuggeranong Valley who have a deep concern about the old bridge as well.
A lot of information has been put in the public arena for a good 12 months or so that perhaps the government got it wrong 18 months ago, that the engineering evidence, the financial evidence, the economic analysis evidence, the heritage evidence, indicated that the government could and should have come to a better decision a long time ago. That is why the opposition today calls for an inquiry. The opposition is deeply disappointed—and let the people of Canberra know this—that the crossbenchers in this place have rolled with the government, despite the evidence to the contrary and despite a broad community outcry. I thought crossbenchers and oppositions in this place had a duty to scrutinise government decision-making processes. Clearly, as far as the crossbenchers are concerned, that is not the case.
By late 2006, the Tharwa community were desperately calling for a resolution of the Murrumbidgee River crossing issue. By that point, they had been told that “the old bridge was going to fall into the river”. Also, they were told by this minister, at a meeting in Tharwa in October, “Fellers, the old bridge is b-e-r—beyond economic repair.” The most economical solution—and the quickest solution, by the way—it was said, would be a new concrete bridge. We now know that was wrong. I heard Mr Mulcahy say here today that he thinks the government made the right decision at the time. Well, so much for that piece of judgement! The fact is that it was known a long time ago that the old bridge could be restored to at least light traffic load and opened within three months, whilst further works were undertaken over a period of another year or so to make the bridge completely safe. All of those things were known by a lot of very good people. The opposition believed that some time ago.
It is true that, in October 2006, the opposition accepted the government’s advice in this place that the concrete bridge was the only option left in order to hasten the desire to bridge the crossing at the Murrumbidgee. You bet we thought that! And, yes, we