Page 79 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 12 February 2008

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MR PRATT (Brindabella) (4.31): Mr Speaker, the subject matter of today’s MPI should really read “the Stanhope government’s lack of process when making decisions”. Sadly, that is what is occurring. The process that exists clearly has been demonstrated in many cases as being shoddy and half-hearted. Today, Mr Speaker, I will prove my case by examining a range of project examples which all needed professional decisions but did not see them. I will point out today in this MPI how these examples of very poor decision making have impacted alarmingly on good governance and, more importantly, have impacted pretty poorly on the community. Mr Speaker, I will illustrate this argument with a number of examples.

I will start with the Tharwa bridge debacle. First and foremost we have got to mention this particular project. Tharwa bridge has been closed for 511 days, and it has been at least 31 months since the first public meeting.

Mr Hargreaves: On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I do not wish to interrupt Mr Pratt’s debate, but I understand Mr Pratt has a motion on the notice paper on this subject for debate on Thursday, and I wonder if it is in order that this particular part of the debate go on.

MR SPEAKER: No, it is not in the notice paper.

Mr Hargreaves: All right; that’s fine.

MR PRATT: Thank you, Mr Hargreaves, for that stimulus. Mr Speaker, there has been a 31-month process of community and government uncertainty. One would think that would be time enough to define options for the bridge, investigate these options, consult on these options, authorise the suitable option and proceed with that option. This has not been the case, however. The Chief Minister himself, on 24 January, while executing a spectacular back flip on the restoration of the Tharwa bridge, said:

I accept absolutely that there has been a frustrating delay in this ultimate decision … The government can certainly be open to some justifiable criticism that we could have worked this through a little more rigorously at the time.

That is an understatement, Mr Speaker. Let us look more closely at the incredibly twisted decision-making process which was the Tharwa bridge project. The Chief Minister’s extensive back flip, which will now see the heritage-listed Tharwa bridge saved from Minister Hargreaves’s likely intention to demolish the old bridge in favour of building a new concrete bridge, dramatically demonstrates 31 or more months of government incompetence, twisted decision making and a degree of arrogance and bullying to boot—31 months of indecision.

To divert attention from this indecision, Mr Stanhope, on Ross Solly’s ABC radio program, basically blamed the delay in decision making on the Tharwa community, who he inferred had pressured the government into deciding to build a concrete bridge. That, in fact, was indeed most unfair and completely in error. In reality, after months of government indecision about what action to take with the neglected heritage bridge, in October 2006 Mr Hargreaves visited a Tharwa community meeting to discuss the

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