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Wednesday, 19 March 1997
Page: 2452

Mr LATHAM(3.53 p.m.) —The Minister for Science and Technology, the member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran), asks why is the parliament debating this matter. Five hundred thousand people in the south-west of Sydney would give him this answer: because of the government's deceitful and disgraceful handling of the Holsworthy airport issue.

I know there are divisions in the National Party about leadership, present and future, but I did not really expect the member for Gippsland to so thoroughly drop his colleague the Minister for Transport and Regional Development, the member for Hume (Mr Sharp), right in it. This is what the minister for transport told this House on 21 May 1996—it was the day he announced the new EIS process for Sydney's second international airport:

Can I reiterate to the House that it is this government's first priority to develop an airport at Badgerys Creek. We are determined to proceed with a second airport for Sydney. Our first priority is Badgerys Creek.

Now we hear from the science minister that this memo, leaked out of his office, was written in June 1996. That is just a few weeks after the minister for transport tells this House that Badgerys Creek is his first option. We have a senior adviser to the minister for transport telling staff of the science minister, `Lachlan made it clear that Badgerys Creek was dead as a viable option for the airport.' That is Lachlan McComish, adviser, land transport rail to John Sharp in June 1996.

If these words passed on to the science minister are true, the minister for transport has misled this House. He has misled this House by telling the House on 21 May 1996 that his first priority was Badgerys Creek. Here is his senior adviser on land transport, Mr McComish, telling other government staffers just a few weeks later, according to the science minister, that Badgerys Creek is dead. What a disgrace; what deceit; what misleading of the people of Sydney over a key lifestyle and economic issue like Sydney's second international airport.

That is a disgusting episode in this government's history—to think that the minister is telling the House on 21 May that his first priority is Badgerys Creek; meanwhile, in the back corridors of Parliament House, around the ministerial wing of this place, senior advisers to the minister for transport are telling other government staffers that Badgerys Creek is dead. They are telling other staff that their minister has misled this House. He is an absolute disgrace. He not only misled people in the lead-up to the election campaign about his intentions with Holsworthy but also misled the members of this place when he told them that Badgerys Creek was his first priority. The truth is that he has only ever had one priority—one priority alone—and that is to build his airport at Holsworthy.

But there is not only that—not only the misleading of people in the lead-up to the election; not only the misleading of the parliament on the announcement of the new EIS process—he then tries to treat the people of south-west Sydney as mugs. For him it is all a Monopoly game where he is playing with the pieces. He is playing around the board with the minister for science. He says, `I'll swap you a nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights for an international airport at Holsworthy.' It is all a Monopoly board.

But there are two other players at the board, and they are sitting just over there: the member for Hughes (Mrs Vale) and the member for Gilmore (Mrs Gash). What is their role in this Monopoly game at the expense of people in south-west Sydney? They are sitting at the board picking up the Chance cards. They got the one that said, `Go to gaol; do not pass go; do not represent your electorate.' That is their sole role in this tawdry affair within the Howard government.

The member for Hughes was not even told about the EIS to be announced on 21 May. It was all news to her, not representing her electorate. I would bet my bottom dollar—not Monopoly money but real money—that the member for Gilmore was not told about this memo written in June 1996 foreshadowing the location of the new nuclear plant and facility at Jervis Bay in her electorate. There is something very interesting for the member for Gilmore. If you look at this document, you will see one page full of analysis, full of the things that you would have to be worried about, full of the things that are of concern, full of the political implications the government needs to consider. It goes on for hundreds and hundreds of words, but not once is there a reference to the member for Gilmore.

She is a forgotten member in the ministerial wing of this place, as government staffers and government ministers work out the arrangements by which they are going to play Monopoly with land uses across New South Wales—swapping a nuclear reactor for an international airport. In all the political considerations that were mentioned in this particular memo out of the science minister's office, the member for Gilmore and people in her electorate do not get one single mention. She is as forgotten as the member for Hughes was on the issue of international airports.

They are so ineffective, they are so hopeless, they have gone so far missing in action that government ministers and their staff did not even bother to mention them in this correspondence—not a consideration, not a concern to anyone. That is just so sad for the people in their electorates, because the people in Hughes and Gilmore are getting zero representation in this place. For them, they are just the pieces on the Monopoly board—`Trade away the nuclear reactor for the international airport. Put the nuclear reactor down to Jervis Bay.' The memo makes mention of the plan: `Sell the land down at Badgerys Creek; put a house on it; put a hotel on it; sell the land at Bankstown airport; develop that for an industrial site.'

It is all a game for these arrogant ministers, played at the expense of people in the electorates of Hughes and throughout the south-west of Sydney, including my electorate and the electorate of Gilmore. The member and her constituents were not even mentioned in the consideration given to this matter in June 1996. It is an arrogant government. It is a deceitful government engaging in a disgraceful game at the expense of people's lifestyles throughout south-west Sydney and down the south coast of New South Wales.

What sort of government engages in these games while it is also breaking the law, while it is also breaking the due process of an EIS? What is the point in having an EIS at a public cost of $12 million if Badgerys Creek is dead—not dead today but dead almost 12 months ago, in June 1996, according to the minister's senior adviser? What is the point in the Minister for the Environment (Senator Hill) pretending in the Senate that he has some regard for the environmental and planning laws of the Commonwealth if staffers and ministers were telling each other in June 1996 that the process is a sham because Badgerys Creek is dead?

Not only is this a government that treats people with contempt and all the arrogance of some dictatorship that just moves these facilities around with absolute disregard for due process; it is a government which is willing to disregard its own environmental and planning laws because, for an EIS to be proper and lawful, it must be fair and all the matters on its agenda must be considered.

We have the science minister staffer saying the government should treat Holsworthy, Badgerys Creek and Lucas Heights as a package. But where is the environmental consideration in the EIS for relocating the nuclear facility? It is not there. It is not being untaken by the consultants. How seriously can anyone judge the findings of an EIS when we all know that back in June last year the transport minister and his staff were saying in the corridors of the ministerial wing that one of the options is dead and, de facto, will not be given due and proper consideration?

This is an absolute sham on the laws of the parliament, on the integrity of the parliament and on the people, the families and the lifestyle in seats like Werriwa, Hughes and Gilmore. The arrogance of the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) to talk about honesty and integrity in public life when he so seriously misled people prior to the last election, when his ministers have been misleading this parliament on this issue and when his staffers and his ministers have, in the back rooms of this parliament, been subverting the EIS process to which the government should be bound to uphold! How can the Prime Minister talk about honesty and integrity when, as has been revealed today by the science minister, in June 1996 Badgerys Creek was dead in the water and the government never had any intention whatsoever of giving it proper consideration in the EIS process? How can the Prime Minister talk about family values? It is all right for the Howard family.

Mr Leo McLeay —Kirribilli.

Mr LATHAM —No nuclear reactor or second airport is to be built at Kirribilli. The view from Kirribilli would be nice and clear. For the 500,000 families in south-west Sydney who go through the anguish of having their whole lifestyle turned upside down by the arrogant actions of this government it is disgraceful to hear a Prime Minister talk about family values.

And what about the families in Jervis Bay who were treated like a piece on a Monopoly board last year when the government talked about the relocation of the nuclear facility? How can the member for Gilmore face those families whilst knowing the executive level of this government does not give them two hoots of consideration when decisions are being made. This is a government of deceit and a government of total arrogance. (Time expired)