Page 1930 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 25 June 2008

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That quote is from Hansard of 21 May. The health minister was then asked what she had done to protect the residents of Tuggeranong and she replied:

I have taken advice on all of the issues under the health and disability portfolio.

The minister was asked whether ACT Health had been given advice about the design and operation of the power station and data centre and its impact on residents at large, and in particular the facility known as Rose Cottage. Ms Gallagher said:

… it is appropriate that agencies have discussions. I am aware that they have across my portfolio. No, I have not seen any firm advice on it. But I am sure it is on its way …

The minister may have seen some soft advice on this, but the firm advice is a bit like the cheque in the mail—it is always on the way. The CEO of ACT Health then said that the advice had been prepared for the minister “and will be made available to the minister and to the other authorities as appropriate during the consulting process”. From this, it would seem that the firm advice was not even on its way, but sitting in a drawer, from which it would be plucked out at whatever time ACT Health deems the “appropriate” time for releasing it to the minister during the consulting process. Who is running the show? Why wouldn’t the Minister for Health be given advice on the health impact of the proposed power station—a major project, as we keep hearing—as soon as it was prepared? I really find this quite strange, and I know that the people of Tuggeranong do.

Are we also to believe that the Chief Minister did not keep his deputy or her officials advised and apprised of this major project? Apparently not, if we are to believe Ms Gallagher’s recollection of events. At the health estimates hearings, the health minister said she was not briefed as one of the two shareholders of Actew Corporation. I may have to correct that; or Mr Hargreaves may correct me. The health minister then added, “I have received correspondence, I am sure.” What did the correspondence say? Did that correspondence constitute a briefing? When and how often did the Chief Minister discuss this matter with his deputy? Has he now in fact landed his deputy in the mire here? She did not look very comfortable today, that is for sure. We do not know. All that we have is vagueness and evasion about a very important matter that concerns potential health risks to the community—or not, as the case may be.

The health minister was at it again today. She accused the “naughty opposition” of “scaremongering”. This is the usual bleating we have come to expect from this minister and this government when they are trying to gloss over major gaffes. That is what we are seeing today. In the Canberra Times on 23 May, she said that there were no health concerns at the moment because the proposal for the power plant was not yet finalised. Ms Gallagher reiterated, in the Canberra Times on 23 May, the Chief Minister’s claim that if there were any health concerns, the project would not go ahead. If health concerns were so important, why were they being considered last? And if this project is so important, why was the discussion of the potential health impacts kept so quiet?

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