Page 364 - Week 01 - Thursday, 11 December 2008

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MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (4.14): I stand to speak to a bill which I think it is fair to say is unusual and unfortunate. That it is unusual is without doubt, but to fully address the nature of what we are debating here and the possibilities of amendments yet to be debated it is imperative that we understand how we got to this situation. It is the final act in a sorry saga.

This legislation is about fixing this government’s mess, the mess it created in relation to the power station and data centre proposal in Tuggeranong, a mess that need never have happened. This was a situation where common sense would have dictated that a government simply should not have entertained a proposal of this type, on broadacre land, this close to residential dwellings. Any person of common sense could see that. This government did not see it and it has taken us many months to get to where we should have been in the first place. It is unfortunate that we have come to this, but we are pleased to assist with the solution to this problem.

We need to go through the chronology. The first we heard of this project was the announcement of a data centre in Hume. In the Auditor-General’s report released yesterday, the media releases were “inaccurate”. As we know now, it was really a massive power station in Tuggeranong, less than one kilometre away from residents’ houses. That was the first communication and the first mislead. Though we did not know it at the time, it was the first step in a drawn-out, sorry saga that resulted in months of angst, repeated misleads of the people and a flawed process clearly marred by political involvement of the Stanhope government and its agencies.

Here is what happened. As far back as March 2002, ActewAGL was looking for a site for a power station in Hume. By May 2007, ActewAGL approached the LDA for land in Hume and a block in Belconnen. In June 2007, Treasury expressed concerns with the project, which were ignored. In July, the Chief Minister sent a letter giving in-principle agreement to reserve a suitable site in Hume. Up until October, various discussions were held behind closed doors. The now infamous Hume media release was issued. Treasury also indicated that the economic impact statement prepared by ActewAGL was unreliable and asked for a cost-benefit analysis to be provided. This was ignored as it was not favoured by the proponents.

On 26 February 2008, ActewAGL lodged a DA. The Auditor-General’s report states that Actew commented that its preference to submit the DA at this time was because the proponents would avoid the need for a full EIS. During March and April, the full extent of the project became realised by the community and by members of the Assembly and the truth became noted in the media. On 8 May, a petition with over 1,500 signatures was lodged with the Legislative Assembly and it was here that the flawed processes became public. The community was both engaged and enraged and the Canberra Liberals took up the fight to find out why such a clearly inappropriate development could have gone so far.

On 27 May 2008, during estimates committee hearings, when the Chief Minister still insisted the site was in Hume, the proponents requested an alteration to reduce the scale of the power station from 210 megawatts to 28 megawatts. Estimates committees were recalled on 16 June when officials admitted misleading the committee earlier, and Mr Stanhope gave strident and at times abusive evidence,

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