Page 4554 - Week 12 - Thursday, 15 October 2009

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Canberra’s water supply. Compare the gravity of those two issues. Yet at the moment, as it stands, we have an Assembly that will examine bill posting, fine, but at the moment is not examining a $363 million water project. That seems to me to be out of whack in terms of priorities.

This is big money. This is an important project. We do believe in securing Canberra’s water supply. We do believe it is critically important to Canberrans that we do this. But of course in doing this we need to make sure we get the absolute best value for money and that the project is managed in the most efficient and effective manner so that Canberrans are not slugged any more for their water than is absolutely necessary in order to enhance supply.

It is a stark choice we have as an Assembly when we look at what we have inquired into and what we could inquire into. We believe there is a need to go further and to have a capital works committee established because there has been such a poor record. But on this motion today we have a situation where we have a very large cost blow-out now in the Cotter Dam. It is reasonable now that we look very closely at how we got to that point, that we ask questions, that we examine witnesses, that we bring in expert testimony, that we work out how we can ensure that the $363 million is not even where it ends; hopefully it ends up less than that and that estimate ends up being high.

Finally, we need to work out how we can do things better in the future to ensure that we do not see these kinds of cost blow-outs, not just with Cotter Dam but with all sorts of other projects delivered by this government. This is an important motion. This will be an important inquiry and I commend it to the Assembly. (Time expired.)

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (11.42): The Greens welcome the debate today on what we believe is a very important issue, and I thank Mr Seselja for bringing this motion on today. The Cotter Dam project costs have caused some consternation, I suspect, or been a cause of consternation for all members of the Assembly, I imagine. We need to move forward along the path of determining how this happened and whether Canberrans are getting value for money on this very significant project.

We will be moving an amendment to Mr Seselja’s motion today. It is quite a significant motion inasmuch as it means that we are not yet supporting the establishment of an inquiry but it is one that we think is aligned with Mr Seselja’s concern about finding out more. It is one that we think will deliver a real outcome in the short term. The Greens are not yet convinced that we have properly established a prima facie case for an inquiry. We think that getting hold of further information is essential before establishing an inquiry.

At the outset I would like to state clearly that the Greens are concerned about Actew’s apparent inability to provide the ACT community with an early cost estimate for this major project that is even close to what the final cost has turned out to be. We are concerned about the lack of information provided to the Canberra community that explains to them why, instead of paying $120 million for a dam, or even $145 million or $250 million, the proposal now is that they pay $363 million.

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