Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 17 June 2009) . . Page.. 2464 ..
He uses Orwellian language as he puts politics front and centre. Yesterday, he said, “More recently, the Liberals and the Greens party have attempted to use the Assembly committee system to put politics back into planning.” I am unsure, Mr Speaker, how a minister making a decision about a development is taking the politics out of planning.
The planning system is designed to allow community consultation—to allow the community, especially those affected by the development, to have their say. The minister has dismissed the concerns of the community as politically motivated or frivolous objections, yet he has failed to indicate how they are politically motivated or frivolous.
The estimates committee had a number of questions for the Minister for Planning which were unable to be asked. During the Minister for Health’s reappearance, she stated several times, “I cannot answer for Minister Barr.” Well, it is now time for Minister Barr to answer for himself. The committee were so concerned by the actions of the Minister for Planning that they recommended that the Assembly pursue the Minister for Planning for his contempt of the committee and accountability processes in refusing to appear to explain to the committee his proposed use of ministerial call-in powers in relation to the Canberra Hospital car park.
“Contempt” is not a word used in this place lightly, yet that is what is being demonstrated by the Minister for Planning—contempt for the committee process, contempt for the Assembly and contempt for the ACT public. According to information given by the Minister for Health when she reappeared before the estimates committee, the concerns raised by the community “in relation to both the multistorey car park and a temporary car park relate to traffic safety, building design, the siting of the parking structure and temporary car parking”.
These concerns do not appear to be either politically motivated or frivolous. They seem to be genuine concerns about a large structure that will be near the homes of members of the ACT community. The minister has shown his arrogance and disregard for the concerns of the public, admitting that his decision to call in the car park was in response to one letter to the editor—just one letter and the minister fast-tracked a $41 million project.
I find it interesting that this government takes action in response to letters or articles in the Canberra Times. We have seen the Chief Minister place a six and a half thousand dollar advertisement in the Canberra Times in response to an unflattering article and now we see the Minister for Planning use his call-in powers in response to a letter to the editor. An article in today’s Canberra Times states that a Kambah resident submitted a letter to the editor and comment to ACTPLA, not an objection, proposing a different site and the inclusion of solar panels and rainwater tanks. The Minister for Planning considers these ideas to be politically motivated and frivolous.
It is worth separating the two issues, although they are linked. One is the merits of the call-in or otherwise; the other is the refusal of the minister.
Ms Gallagher: And what is your view on that, Zed? Are we going to find out?