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ASER (Restructure) (Facilitation of Riverbank Development) Amendment Bill – Committee Stage

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: I have a contribution to clause 1 and then it is unlikely that I will be asking any questions on the other clauses. The provisions of this bill enable the initiation and construction work to commence. The clauses of the bill are themselves not controversial. The bill itself is not necessary for the works to commence. Mr Hanlon, the CEO of Renewal SA, recently advised publicly that other contractual arrangements could be entered into but that the passage of this bill was his preferred option.

The Liberal Party has consistently advised the government that it would not progress the bill without information regarding the proposed development. It was a reasonable and responsible request by the Liberal Party. As early as 21 June 2016 in the other place, the shadow attorney-general, the member for Bragg, set out the Liberal Party’s position. The member for Bragg said:

So, whilst we may have done it differently, we support there being development and would agree to progressing the bill in the event that there had been full disclosure of the documentation we consider necessary to advance the progress.

The shadow attorney (the member for Bragg) then went on to require correspondence between the parties, details of the Art Gallery proposal and, importantly, the contract between the parties. This is what we were elected to do: to hold the government to account and ensure parliament had an opportunity to oversee these types of important developments where public moneys are being spent and public land is being alienated.

The shadow attorney-general, and indeed the Hon. Mark Parnell, had to pursue the correspondence by a tortuous path of freedom of information requests. There were no attempts by this government to expedite the process, even when there was a ruling by the Ombudsman that the information, namely the correspondence, should be released. The Walker Corporation deployed an old tactic to delay further by instituting and then abandoning proceedings to prevent the release of the correspondence. This is not an act that foretells of dealings in good faith. Going forward, I fear that the corporation may not have adequate regard to the public good.

The consistent narrative has been a government and a corporation unwilling to hold themselves accountable for the arrangements they have entered into. The Minister for Urban Development in the other place even had the gall to try to reassure the parliament that the Public Works Committee had signed off. Even a cursory read of the report of the committee reveals that they had very little information to make their assessment and the committee stated in their report that they required more detailed evidence on the proposal.

On 4 August 2016, I reiterated the requirements of the Liberal Party in this chamber. In response to this reiterated request, the delivery of the contract only took place yesterday. The contract is over 500 pages of dense legal prose and parts are redacted. Of interest to the chamber may be that the contract is dated 26 May 2016 and clause 37.6 does provide for the minister to release confidential information to the parliament, so it was within the capacity of the government legally to release information to assist the opposition in its deliberations of this important project.

Yesterday, even the Leader of the Government in this chamber took it upon himself to try to ram the legislation through the chamber, seizing the opportunity to prevent consideration of the contract. This act alone indicates the lengths the Labor Party will go to to avoid transparency and the rightful examination of the arrangements that the government has entered into on behalf of the people of South Australia. I quote even my own Hansard from 4 August 2016:

As a consequence, the Liberal Party has formed the view that it cannot support the passage of the bill at the third reading without it having had an opportunity to consider the information requested.

It is a credit to the shadow attorney-general, the member for Bragg, that she spent a large portion of yesterday and last night going through the contract, along with others of us who had the opportunity to have a copy. As I said, the contract should have been provided long ago. It should have been released even under the government’s own Department of the Premier and Cabinet circular.

This contract involves the alienation of Parklands and the spending of public money. There is no reason that the contract, once entered into, could not have been made public. All this is against the backdrop of the Gillman inquiry by the ICAC where maladministration was found and the Treasurer was chastised for his behaviour in relation to public servants. Further down North Terrace we have a hospital that remains empty and unused. I would not be surprised if these arrangements will eventually be subject to examination by inquiry agencies.

The Hon. P. Malinauskas interjecting:

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: Praise the hospital when it is actually working, minister.

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. P. Malinauskas: What’s that?

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: Praise the hospital when it’s actually working. This government has form in not—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Mr McLachlan has the floor and I think we should give him the respect to listen to what he has to say in silence.

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN: As I said, I would not be surprised if these arrangements will eventually be subject to examination by other inquiry agencies. This government has form for not liking its activities being examined in the light of day. Why should we trust this government that actively works to ensure we are kept in the dark?

On a personal note, I think this development is underwhelming and may even scar the Riverbank. I recently came across an article by Philip Drew on The Death of Public Architecture. I am paraphrasing, but he makes the valid point that responsible governments add to the public estate and deliver essential properly targeted services, backed by inspiring public architecture, but often default to resorting to selling off the state’s valuable heritage to private developer corporations. I hope that it does not, but I am concerned that this project won’t meet the lofty ideal of inspiring public architecture.

I feel the project is ill conceived and that it will be a symbol of the government’s contempt for its own people and its addiction to secrecy. It is not lost on me that we will end up with a commercial building towering over the house of the people. The tower will be an edifice symbolising greed at the expense of the people’s own land. The continued alienation of the Parklands is of great concern to me. In essence, we are stealing an asset held in trust for all, the people, and stealing from the future generations.

It is a breach of trust, simply to pay the debts that the government has casually and negligently incurred to date. It was very sanctimonious on radio this morning for the Minister for Housing and Urban Development, the member for Lee, to suggest that the Liberal Party was seeking to frustrate the development. He has had ample opportunity to disclose the information we needed in accordance with the government’s own policy. To disclose the content at the last minute and then claim we are frustrating the bill is pure hypocrisy.

A leader would have sought to take the community with him rather than pandering to a developer. There are some good aspects to this development but the governance arrangements and the desire for secrecy leave little to be desired. I advise the chamber that the Liberal Party’s conditions have at last been met. The Liberal Party will now support the passage of the bill.

See full session on Hansard