Page 1482 - Week 06 - Thursday, 2 July 2020

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Planning and Development Amendment Bill 2020

Debate resumed from 4 June 2020, on motion by Mr Gentleman:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR PARTON (Brindabella) (11.30): This side of the chamber will not be opposing the bill before us. I thank the minister for his assistance in getting my office right across the detail of this bill and doing so really early on in the piece. In many instances, we find ourselves getting along a lot better at the end of the term than the start of the term, and I am not really sure why. But I am not arguing against that position. So thanks to the minister and his office for doing that.

Our initial advice was that this would probably be debated in August, but fast-tracking this bill today is probably a good thing if it removes the last impediment to commencing the implementation phase of what is a very significant project. I know we will hear more from the minister on that.

The bill establishes the legislative basis for granting a lease to the University of New South Wales for less than market value, as an inducement to that institution establishing a campus on Constitution Avenue. The other inducement is a $25 million cash contribution to that university to help things along.

We have questioned this bill, and if you are seriously questioning it on any basis you have to question whether that is value for money for ACT taxpayers. Certainly in the examination the Canberra Liberals have had of the bill, we are of the belief that it is, so we are in agreement with the minister on this. This seems to be a small price to pay for the creation of 2,000 new jobs and hosting 6,000 students. It is also fair to say that opportunities like this do not come along very often.

The minister also tells me that $3 billion of value will be added to the territory’s economy, which is nothing to sniff at by any means. It makes sense for a major learning institution to establish a campus away from the congested city environment and in proximity to other major tertiary bodies within Canberra.

The economics of the proposal are compelling and the impact on Canberra as a centre for learning is most alluring. When we examine bills and proposals like this that all look pretty good at the start, we are also mindful of the fact that we should not get our hopes up too high too soon. This is a big picture initiative with a lengthy time frame and a massive construction phase spread over quite a number of years.

The construction proposals, it goes without saying, will need to comply with all of the necessary planning and works approvals and all of the processes in terms of consultation. I really hope there are no hidden traps or surprises as this project moves ahead. In particular, I hope there are no financial surprises to ambush an unsuspecting public or that would push our burgeoning deficits even further into the stratosphere. I look forward to a Coe government taking this initiative to a successful maturity.

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