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Monday, 8 October 1984
Page: 1435


Senator JACK EVANS(10.30) —I draw the attention of the Senate and the people of Australia, particularly the people of Western Australia , to a travesty which has taken place and is still being put into effect in Western Australia. Let me briefly introduce the background to this matter which is based on what is known as a Systems 6 study, a comprehensive long term plan for Western Australia, which was divided into sections and which aims at ensuring safeguards and benefits for the people and the environment of Western Australia. It is in my opinion a magnificent study and a very comprehensive and well thought out report. Included in the initial report and subsequently in the final report was recommendation M93.3 which reads:

That the recommendations of the Cockburn Wetlands Study (that Farrington Road should not be extended around the north of North Lake and that the proposed Roe Highway be modified to reduce its impact on the wetlands in the area) are endorsed.

Those recommendations included a quite specific exclusion of a previously planned extension of Farrington Road. The Australian bicentenary road development grant guidelines which were in force at the time that a number of decisions were made relating to Farrington Road made it quite clear that any road development should not ignore the environmental impact and, in particular, any serious environmental or ecological consequences of a road to be built using ABRD funds. The specific reference to which I draw the Senate's attention is 3.8 Environmental Information, which reads:

When projects are submitted for approval, the States are required to certify that all works involved in the project conform with the requirements of the State's environmental authority.

A project will not normally be approved without this certification.

Until a project meets a State's environmental requirement, works on the project will be limited to hardship acquisition, investigation or such works as the State environmental authority is prepared to let proceed until all environmental requirements have been met.

The State should also advise whether particular projects submitted for approval are likely to have a significant effect on National Estate sites, Aboriginal lands and sacred sites.

These requirements are quite clear and very easily understood. System 6 says 'Do not proceed. You are in danger of destroying the ecology'. The ABRD grant guidelines make it clear that no road should be built with its funds which contravenes its environmental guidelines. Briefly, the background to the problem is set out in a statement which dates from March 1976 right up to October 1984. With the approval of the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Walsh)-I have sought the approval of the Minister for Transport (Mr Peter Morris)-I seek leave to have that background information incorporated in Hansard because it sets out the foundation of the argument I put tonight.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

Background:

(i) March, '76-Cockburn Wetlands Study states that Farrington Road is an unnecessary road and should not be constructed.

(ii) 1981-E.P.A. presents draft of System 6 report and adopts Cockburn Wetlands Study.

(iii) June, 1983-E.P.A. consulted by M.R.D. E.P.A. stood by its recommendation that Farrington Road should not be built.

(iv) July, 1983-M.R.D. applied for A.B.R.D. funds.

(v) October, '83-M.R.D., Cockburn City Council and Melville City Council give assurances that the project will not breach Bicentennial guidelines. E.P.A. is not consulted, nor are the other interested parties.

(vi) October, '83-Melville City Engineer met with Cockburn City Officers to discuss details of the Farrington Road project.

(vii) November, '83-Tenders are called and close on 5.12.83.

(viii) December, '83-Melville City Council and Cockburn City Council notified that Bicentennial Funds are available.

(ix) January, '84-modifications made to proposed roadworks.

(x) May, '84-Farrington Road gazetted by M.R.D.

(xi) May, '84-System 6 red book released and accepted in principle by the Minister for Environment.

(xii) May, '84-Melville City Council adopts final draft of System 6 report, including the recommendation M93.3 that Farrington Road not be constructed. The Melville City Council has been consistent with its support of M93.3 since 29.5. 84.

(xiii) May, '84-Lowest tender accepted for project.

(xiv) May, '84-Department of Conservation and Environment advises the M.R.D. to notify E.P.A. of developments on the Farrington Road project.

(xv) June, '84-M.R.D. and City of Cockburn submit Notice of Intent to E.P.A.

(xvi) July, '84-Unofficial letter is sent to the M.R.D. and forwarded to E.P.A.

(xvi) July, '84 (cont)-This unofficial letter from the Melville City Planner was contrary to the expressed wishes of the Melville City Council and ratepayers and appears to be the basis for any decision made by the E.P.A. to accept that Melville City Council desired the construction of Farrington Road.

(xvii) July, '84-Melville City Engineer notified Main Roads Department of the concerns of the Melville City Council west of Murdoch Drive, Murdoch.

(xviii) July, '84-Cockburn City Council notified of Melville's concern as to the environmental impact of the proposed Farrington Road project.

(xix) August, '84-E.P.A. met with Officers of the City of Melville and City of Cockburn and expressed concern for the possibility of environmental damage that could be caused by the road. Melville City Council recorded these concerns.

(xx) August, '84-E.P.A. asked for joint local government agreement to be signed before work should proceed on the construction of Farrington Road. No such agreement was signed.

(xxi) August, '84-E.P.A. suddenly reverses recommendation M93.3 and gives approval for road to proceed.

(xxii) August, '84-Contracts are signed,

(xxiii) Sept., '84-E.P.A. met and gave formal decision to reverse recommendation M93.3.

(xxiv) Sept., '84-Melville City Council sought the opinions of residents and continued to discuss opposition to the extension of Farrington Road west of Murdoch Drive.

(xxv) September, '84-Bulldozers roll onto Melville land and are halted by mass demonstrations. The city of Cockburn defies all attempts to halt roadworks; attempts by injunctions sought by local residents, the Conservation Council of W .A., the City of Melville and the State Government. Appeals by the Mayor of Melville, the media and the Premier were unable to halt works as were the attempts by people to block the passage of bulldozers with their bodies.

(xxvi) October, '84-Despite 30 days of intensive media coverage, mainly headline news, work on this project has not halted.


Senator JACK EVANS —I thank the Senate. As I said, that background clearly demonstrates that there has been either a dereliction of duty or possibly a deliberate misleading of one or two State Ministers, possibly the Federal Minister for Transport and possibly senior people in the Melville City Council. The Environmental Protection Authority has very sound reasons for rejecting any proposals to extend that road. Again, rather than take up the time of the Senate , I seek leave to have those sound reasons incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

Farrington Road Issue:

Irregularities in the reversal of recommendation M93.3 of the system 6 report

Question: What led the E.P.A. to reverse recommendation M93.3 between August 9th and August 27th?

Background:

(a) AUGUST 9-E.P.A. meeting between three members of E.P.A., Mr Treloar (the Melville City Planner) and Mr Candy (the Cockburn City Engineer). E.P.A. refused to reverse recommendation M93.3 and requested a joint agreement be signed between the local government bodies.

(b) AUGUST 10-The Cockburn Town Clerk, Mr Amarego, sent a letter to the Melville Town Clerk seeking a joint agreement to satisfy the E.P.A.

(c) AUGUST 14-Melville Town Clerk received the letter.

(d) AUGUST 16-Mr Amarego again requested the letter to be signed by the Melville Town Clerk.

(e) AUGUST 21-Melville City Council Works Committee considered the joint agreement and questioned the construction of Farrington Road west of Murdoch Drive.

(f) AUGUST 27-Professor Main, Chairman of the E.P.A., issued an Executive order on his own authority that the Farrington Road project could proceed.

(g) AUGUST 27-Main Roads Department released Bicentennial funds.

(h) AUGUST 28-The City of Cockburn, as manager of the project, let the contract .

(i) AUGUST 28-Full council meeting of the City of Melville expressed concern at the possibility that the area around North Lake may be damaged by the construction of Farrington Road and sought the opinions of residents, their concerns were referred back to the E.P.A.

(j) SEPTEMBER 6-E.P.A. meeting. Only two members present as Professor O'Connor had not received an agenda. Chairman asks for retrospective approval to 27th August to reverse recommendation M93.3. The joint letter has not been signed by the local government bodies. E.P.A. meeting gives retrospective approval.

(k) SEPTEMBER 7-Minister for Environment informed for the first time of reversal of M93.3.

Farrington Road Issue:

Background (Continued):

(1) SEPTEMBER 10-Cockburn City Council sent bulldozers onto Melville land without permission from the Melville City Council.

(m) SEPTEMBER 14-Chairman of E.P.A. asks Cabinet for retrospective approval to reverse recommendation M93.3. Cabinet denied request. E.P.A. asked to view its decision.

(n) SEPTEMBER 15-State Government sought to halt roadworks but failed.

(o) OCTOBER 4-E.P.A. meeting to review its decision to reverse recommendation M93.3 is postponed owing to the overwhelming number of submissions received.

(p) E.P.A. meeting rescheduled for Tuesday, October 9th.

Other questions:

(i) Why didn't Professor Main wait for the joint agreement from the City of Melville?

(ii) Is it irregular for the M.R.D. to have documents prepared in advance of a decision being made?

(iii) Why did Cockburn let the contract when it was known that Melville City Council opposed certain aspects of the project?

(iv) Why did the City of Cockburn commence work on Stage 3 of the project instead of Stage 1 where there was no disagreement?

(v) What was the true reason for Professor O'Connor's resignation?

(vi) Were misleading documents or pressures exerted to or on the Chairman of the E.P.A.?

(vii) Why was the whole project expediated and concealed from public scrutiny?

Note: SEPTEMBER 21-Professor Des O'Connor resigned from E.P.A.


Senator JACK EVANS —I thank the Senate again. The Minister for the Environment has claimed that the EPA based its advice 'on full consultation with the Main Roads Department, the city of Melville and the city of Cockburn'. I make that claim because I have before me a letter from the Minister for the Environment, Ron Davies MLA, addressed to the Town Clerk of the city of Melville which states precisely that. I seek leave to table that letter as evidence that that Minister was obviously unaware at the time of writing that there were very serious environmental considerations which at that stage had not been drawn to his attention.

Leave granted.


Senator JACK EVANS —I thank the Senate. This evidence flows on to another quite serious situation involving the Federal Government. This is the reason why I believe that this matter should be drawn into the Federal sphere. The Minister for Transport, Mr Peter Morris, on 24 September 1984 wrote to the President of the Kardinga Residents Association in Western Australia explaining that the project which was submitted to him in July 1983 by the Western Australian Minister for Transport, Mr Grill, gave an assurance that no environmentally significant aspects of the project needed referral to appropriate environmental authorities. That is a very serious situation because it would appear on the surface of the information I have tendered to the Senate tonight that this project, which this letter says was approved for ABRD funding in October 1983, was approved on a false pretext. The responsibility for that misleading of the Federal Minister has yet to be determined. I understand that the Premier of Western Australia is very concerned and, in fact, is currently investigating the matters which have been drawn to his attention. I understand that the Minister for the Environment is equally concerned and that the EPA has great difficulty in accepting that this could have happened under what were until now considered to be quite safe protections written into the State's environmental legislation and which particularly provided for the environment by the System 6 study which, I understand, had the full endorsement of the Western Australian Government.

I draw the Senate's attention to this matter because I believe this area is a significant part of the Perth metropolitan area. It deserves protection. It is not just a bit of wasteland through which a road can be pushed without considering the ecological consequences. It is not just a beautiful area from an aesthetic point of view. I understand that ornithologists from around Australia visit it because of the bird life there. The plant life is unique in its variety and the types of plants that are there. The whole ecology is a very precious one . It is a relatively large area for a metropolitan area to have within its precincts and is a beautiful bit of Australia's natural heritage. As a result of this possible deception by certain people who, for their own reasons, have forced decisions to be carried out without due consideration, and who have been party to misleading the Federal Minister, and no one knows exactly how many people before that, to obtain the grant of $1m in road funds, the interests of the road builders have been put ahead of the interests of the people in the community who believe that that road should not proceed.

I conclude by asking the Federal Minister to have a full inquiry into this matter and to freeze the funds. I do not want that $1m withdrawn from road funding in Western Australia because, goodness knows, we need the road funding and the road construction in Western Australia. I believe that there is an alternative route to this particular traffic that the Cockburn Shire Council claims is building up and will build up in the future, an alternative route which will probably prove to be just as acceptable to all of the parties who would use it and far more acceptable to those who want to protect our natural environment. Given that the Federal Minister accepts that request and that he ensures that there are no penalties and no losses of funds to the Western Australian Government and the Cockburn shire for this particular development, I believe that all parties would, with good will, move rapidly towards finding an alternative solution. On behalf of those people in Western Australia who are concerned for the environment, I appeal to the Federal Minister and the Premier of Western Australia to accept this proposal that an inquiry be conducted and that, in the meantime, the funds for this particular road be frozen.