Page 1955 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 25 June 2008

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rejected the rest of my motion and decided to rule out paragraphs (2) and (4) of Mr Seselja’s original motion. I have already spoken to paragraph (2) of Mr Seselja’s motion, but I believe that I should justify why I support paragraph (4) of the motion in arguing against Mr Mulcahy’s rejection of it.

Of course, this goes to the heart of the whole process. Mr Barr spoke at some length about the planning approval process and seemed to imply that I did not understand how the process worked in asking for the minister to call for an EIS. I will address that a little more comprehensively shortly. However, I want to reassure the Minister for Planning that I do accept the government’s argument that it was not its legal responsibility to notify and consult with residents. That is the responsibility of ACTPLA and the proponents. It is true that ACTPLA has not yet reached the stage where it should properly intervene in this process and, from Mr Barr’s understanding of the legislation, the government cannot act or call for an EIS until the planning assessment process is complete.

However, Mr Barr and I have agreed that there is room for several interpretations of that legislation. At what stage during the PA can the government intervene? Is it after the PA has been lodged or is it after the PA is complete? The legislation does not spell that out. Also, there is the question of “reasonable grounds”. If ever there was a phrase that was open to several interpretations, “reasonable grounds” is it.

The reality, in my book, is that the process was in fact deficient for the size of the project and that this deficiency has jeopardised the development. My office staff and I were told in a briefing at which Mr Mackay was present just a couple of days ago that if there was an EIS then at least some of the partners would walk. Very clearly, the proponents have never wanted an EIS. I am not sure whether Mr Stanhope’s rejection of that proposal is an indication of his concern that the EIS would cause the project partners to walk. I clarify that that is not because they feel they would come out badly in an EIS; it is because an EIS would take too long.

I want to dispute that. An EIS would take perhaps a year—that is the problem—or maybe longer, but it is not as though there will not be other people interested in establishing data centres in the ACT or elsewhere. If the ACT does have all of the natural advantages of cooler weather, which is something ActewAGL claims quite a lot, other developers will be interested in setting up data centres here. If an emissions trading scheme comes into place, which it will next year—we still do not know under what terms—people will be seeking greener data centres to help in their emissions equation. So there are very good reasons why a greenish, co-generated data centre will always be a winner. The fact is that we are going to see an expansion of data centres. That is incontrovertible, because we are not going to stop googling; we are not going to get out of cyberspace. So there will always be a demand for data centres. Let us not panic about this one. Let us have proper governance and proper processes.

Ms Porter talked about how this motion counters proper governance. That is really a very small-picture approach to the matter. We are talking here about the long term. We are talking about data centres that will be here for decades. We are talking about climate change that will be here forever. Yet the government supports Mr Mackay in his concern that an environmental impact statement would cause some proponents to walk because it would take too long. Hang on; I think we would like the world to be around for a few more million years yet, wouldn’t we?

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