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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 23 June 2009) . . Page.. 2759 ..

Those artists spent a great deal of time, effort and their money developing concepts for a centenary art work, acting in good faith that the government was firmly of a mind to proceed with the major project. But the government suddenly decided, and with no real justification, that we did not want one any more, and they just pulled the rug out from under all these artists. There was no consultation, there was no warning—there was nothing. One day we were going to have a $1 million piece of art to celebrate Canberra’s centenary and the next day it had gone—again, no consultation, no warning, nothing, especially when it came to those artists.

Indeed, it was a case of “the judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into”. And there was correspondence. Certainly not until after at least one of the artists was contacted by the media, seeking comment on the government’s decision, did they find out about it; he found out about it from the media, not from the government. When artists have approached the Chief Minister on this matter, they have been given very short shrift in the replies. (Second speaking period taken.)

This is an outrageous, dishonest, cynical, hypocritical and uncaring act from a government that has callously said that it could withdraw the project at any time. It is just too bad about the artists; too bad about the work they have done to develop a major piece of artwork; too bad about the time and the money that they had spent; too bad about the opportunity they had to immortalise their creativity in a major and iconic work—it is just too bad. But the thing is that the losers were the artists themselves and possibly the people of the ACT.

In relation to a couple of other issues, I notice that in the indicative land release it is proposed, and you also touched on this in your questions on notice, Madam Assistant Speaker, that there should be a sale and redevelopment of the car park at the Hawker Group Centre. I think it is necessary to just recap on the history. This was a case of the government claiming that there was consultation on the project and that it had been sufficient. That consultation amounted to simply planting a sign. Indeed, that block of land was scheduled to be sold at auction on 18 March 2009. It did cause quite a furore and eventually there was a unanimous change of heart in this Assembly when the Assembly supported my motion to postpone the sale while consultation was taking place. But, since then, there has been a breathtaking silence.

I, from time to time, have contact with the Hawker residents and the people who work around the group centre and they are waiting for the consultation. So it was interesting to see the answers to questions on notice that both you and I asked about this, Madam Assistant Speaker. They seem to provide quite a reasonable bit of information, but really what it boils down to is that there is still not going to be what I would consider satisfactory consultation. It seems that what the government is doing is getting together its arsenal, developing its final decision, before going to the community. The Chief Minister says, in answer to the questions on notice:

Consultation will be undertaken upon completion of the studies on how the development of the site might impact on existing tenants, operators and others in the precinct. The studies and consultation will assist in determining the nature and level of development, if any that may be appropriate on the site. Following completion of that work, there will be consultation with the local community on the results of the studies and their feedback will be sought.

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