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Another Perth freight link government transparency refusal

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Scott Ludlam 3 May 2016

In relation to a response to an order for the production of documents that the Senate carried on 20 April 2016, relating to the Perth Freight Link, I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

It has become a matter of routine for this government to defy such orders of the Senate. I thank the Australian Labor Party and I thank the majority of crossbenchers, who voted with the Greens in order to achieve some basic transparency on this government's plan to ram a freeway of between four and six lanes—it will not disclose—through the Beeliar Wetlands and the Beeliar Regional Park, destroying around 100 hectares of priceless and irreplaceable banksia woodland, and now apparently to dive a tunnel under the suburbs of North Lake and Palmyra and into East Fremantle before surfacing in East Fremantle, creating a catastrophic traffic jam and falling short of the entrance to the port of Fremantle by a kilometre or two. It is the most destructive, unwanted, unnecessary and reviled project in modern Western Australian political history. The government again chose to defy an order for the production of documents as to who on earth is making the decisions and who, inside the Commonwealth and state political structures, believes that this is actually a project that is in the public interest.

 

There is twisted logic, where the ideal of maximum transparency for governments and maximum privacy for citizens is reversed. We see instead maximum transparency for citizens in the obliteration of privacy through dragnet data retention—that being simply one example—and minimum transparency for government and corporate interests through defiance of Senate resolutions such as this. I am presuming that the clerks are keeping count. I have long since lost count of how many of these Senate resolutions this government has defied, and it is time that it was called on the failure to provide even basic levels of transparency when it comes to funnelling money out the door—billions of dollars in this instance.

It is the same for WestConnex. It would have been the same for the East West Link in Victoria except for community action. Community action will prevail in Sydney, and community action will prevail in the case of the Perth Freight Link, but in the meantime the minimum that we ask of this government is some transparency. This is not your money. This is taxpayers' money that you hold in trust, and you come in here and lecture us about transparency. National Party senators get on their feet and say, 'No disbursement of moneys worth more than $100 million unless a public business case and a cost-benefit analysis have been conducted, published and put into the public domain.'

We are not asking for much. In this instance we simply want to know: who is actually driving this agenda? Who is it who wants to tip a billion dollars worth of concrete into the Beeliar Wetlands, obliterating Aboriginal sacred sites, destroying neighbourhood amenity and pumping diesel fumes through subterranean stacks into surrounding areas? And it does not even reach the port. Transport Minister Nalder—who should have been sacked months ago for this debacle—will not even tell the people of Western Australia how this atrocity gets to the container yard.

You talk about fiscal responsibility and economic maturity on the eve of this budget that will no doubt carry hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds into this project that nobody wants. The state government is in the Supreme Court of Western Australia today arguing on appeal that the rules and the policies of the state EPA, which it so casually violated in ticking this thing off, should be considered as merely guidelines, just window dressing—that is, not worth the paper they are printed on. That is the argument that the state government is making in the Supreme Court today: that the EPA should not be held to account on its own policies for the kind of environmental destruction that is contemplated here.

In the last sitting week, the Senate ordered the government to provide all documents relating to the random and sudden decision of the Prime Minister to write out a $260 million cheque for a tunnel that nobody wants, to connect this road from the destruction of the wetlands to nowhere in particular—a couple of kays short of the port. It is a tunnel that has not even been designed yet. It is time that this government was held to account. Put these documents into the public domain, as the Senate has ordered you to do, and let us get some transparency over this project.

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