Page 1870 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 25 June 2008

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questioned. Documents were suppressed, the Assembly was misled and the people of the territory were dismissed. All of this was designed to obscure the clear facts of the matter—that this government and this Chief Minister cannot deliver major infrastructure for this territory.

Let me make it quite clear what this issue is about and what it is not about. One of Mr Stanhope’s statements has been the claim that his critics oppose this project. The opposition does not criticise the scale of a project of this size in the ACT; nor do most residents. The Canberra Liberals support a $2 billion project, but not within a kilometre of houses.

Mr Stanhope says that block 1671 is the best possible site, but clearly it is not because it had to be downscaled by half. We do not want $1 billion in the wrong place; we want $2 billion in the right place. Mr Stanhope says it is too difficult to move the project over the road or a few kilometres away, but we are told by others that it is okay for the project to move to Singapore if the development application fails the planning process. This is a game of bluff and we do not buy it.

There has been considerable debate and speculation over site selection versus site facilitation. On the surface, this appears to be a nuanced issue, but the reality is far more simple. The first option was refused by the government; it was never even on the table. The second option was unpalatable to ActewAGL because of heritage investigations. Then the final option neighbouring Macarthur was presented and that was the only location formally offered by government.

This is like the real estate agent who shows you the house you can’t afford, the house that is falling down, and then the house they want you to buy. ActewAGL was presented with a classic Hobson’s choice—some choice! Mr Stanhope was at all times the responsible minister because (1), he was the minister responsible for land release policy and has the Land Development Agency within his portfolio, the agency responsible for site identification and (2), he was the minister responsible for major projects facilitation. The Chief Minister’s Department was instrumental in coordinating government interaction with ActewAGL and the CTC consortium through its business and projects division.

Mr Stanhope was in a position to know all the facts as the responsible minister. Indeed, he has made emphatic statements to parliament on what the facts were—statements that are contradicted by the written record. Let me run through some of the many falsehoods. Mr Stanhope claimed in estimates:

… suggestions that any of these blocks were ruled out or that pressure was brought to bear not to accept a particular site and to move to another site is essentially to challenge my evidence ...

This was backing up a quote from an official who said:

At no stage did the government or LDA rule out any site.

I repeat:

At no stage did the government or LDA rule out any site.

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