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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 763


Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (13:36): In the explanation he gave to the Senate this morning, Senator Cormann failed in his obligation and in his duty to this place. His explanation did not go to his failure to table documents and that demonstrates the spurious nature of the business case that the government continues to hide. Senator Cormann, because he is a minister, can use his ministerial capacity to table whatever he likes. But instead of tabling the facts that might have outlined a business case for this parliament to see, what he instead tabled and spoke to was government advertising. He spoke to government advertising, not to the business case that he was asked for. That is the nature of the information that Senator Cormann tabled in this place.

The business case has been hidden from this place and from public view under cabinet in confidence and by, I would argue, falsely using cabinet processes to channel documents through cabinet. So what we have here is Senator Cormann speaking not to the facts but to taxpayer funded advertising as a way of trying to mount a facts based argument about this project. It is an appalling abuse of his place in this chamber.

There is only one way to stop the Roe 8 project and that is for a Labor government to be elected in Western Australia on 11 March. Again, what we see here is the state government trying to counter what is a very legitimate expression of concern from the Western Australian community about this project. The government knows it is on the back foot when it comes to this project. The Western Australian community is very concerned about the wetlands, very concerned about the sustainability of this project and very concerned about the environmental abuses that are occurring. So we have Minister Cormann tabling advertising in place of a business case while at the same time the government denying Senator Cormann leave to table his very much more fact based documents that actually outline the evidence of the environmental abuses that are taking place. I think that is an appalling act of the government.

What we saw in his contribution today was Senator Back confirming the fact that this is indeed a road to nowhere. He talked about the building of Roe 8 and what was, in his view, the wrong decision to cancel the Stephenson project. We saw the cancellation of the Stephenson project bring back a range of areas that are now firmly residential. The government is not revisiting that issue, as Senator Back confirmed. What, in effect, this means is that this project is indeed a road to nowhere, as confirmed by Senator Back today.

Again, instead of tabling any business case or cost-benefit analysis, what we had was reference to government advertising by Senator Cormann, which indeed makes a complete mockery, I think, of his obligations to this place. Instead, what he spoke to was a bunch of government advertising—what a joke; that is an absolute joke.

I would like to thank Senator Ludlam for bringing this question before the chamber today and for asking for these documents. What we have though from the government is a complete failure in its responsibility, and a complete failure of Minister Frydenberg to investigate these breaches of environmental law. So, sadly, the only way forward on this project is really to get the message out to voters that the only way to stop this project is to have people vote Labor on 11March.

We have had from the Hanson party a rejection of this project. But, sadly, if we are going to see a preference deal between the Western Australian Liberals and Pauline Hanson's One Nation, a vote for the Hanson party will be a vote for this project, contrary to their own policy. It is really important that we take the time to explain this to voters because I know that Western Australian voters are against this. We have strong environmental sentiments in Western Australia where we see these wetlands as precious environmental assets. The irony of Senator Back's comments when he talked about these road projects having been proposed for many decades was that some of our best environmental assets—and this is true of all of our cities—are the bits of land that were proposed for roads and therefore no other construction or development took place on them. It is only in hindsight that we have seen that these environmental assets should not be roads but they should be protected and maintained as environmental assets, and Roe 8 very much falls into this category.

I would really like to commend my colleague Anthony Albanese for the approach that he takes to these issues, which, as Senator Ludlam highlighted, is transparent. It is about Infrastructure Australia having a proper analysis of these kinds of projects and through that in Western Australia we have seen Perth Citylink, NorthLink, Great Eastern Highway, NorthLink and the Great Northern Highway upgrades. What we also see is support for the state Labor plan for Metronet, where we should be taking funds from Roe 8 and delivering it to our public transport system in Western Australia to make it better. In thanking Senator Ludlam for bringing this motion before the Senate, I really want to highlight the contempt that Senator Cormann is showing this place. The only way to resolve this issue is to vote Labor on 11 March.