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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 766


Senator LINES (Western AustraliaDeputy President and Chair of Committees) (13:50): I too rise to speak about Senator Ludlam's take note motion around Roe 8. I too listened really carefully to Minister Cormann, a Western Australian senator who presumably has an interest in this road, which has managed to divide the Western Australian community, and I did not hear any assurances from him today that indeed the development of Roe 8 was based on any kind of sound principle at all. The Western Australian public does not often get upset about things. There are two recent issues, both a product of the failed Barnett government that looks like it will be swept out of office on 11 March, that have really united Western Australia. There is the whole shark net proposal where we had sharks being culled quite needlessly, and we saw Western Australians from across the metropolitan area coming together and constantly protesting against that, and Roe 8 is the other issue. Really, what should happen now, before there is further destruction and death to native species, is that this project should be held over until 11 March. The Barnett government's continuation of this project is an absolute demonstration of their arrogance. This is a state Liberal government in Western Australia that is arrogant and out of touch, because most Western Australians, regardless of whether they think Roe 8 is a good idea or not, firmly believe that this project should now be held over.

This search for documents, this search for the business case, this search for the truth, has been going on for years now—years. Alannah MacTiernan, the former federal member for Perth, started looking for these documents, and roadblocks were put in her way at every point. And she will continue to look for those documents. Ms MacTiernan first lodged a complaint with the Commonwealth Ombudsman after the department said it would not hand over details about the $1.6 billion Perth freight link, because—wait for it—the minister's job had been abolished. So, we are hearing different excuses every time. Ms MacTiernan submitted two requests under freedom of information laws to the office of the Assistant Minister for Regional Development in 2015, asking for details about the project. In October 2015 Ms MacTiernan received a short message explaining that because the portfolio had been abolished in Mr Turnbull's new frontbench the documents would not be handed over.

Again, the AAT, the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal, ordered the federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development to release the documents in 2015 and again in 2016, but the government appealed to the Federal Court. And now it would seem that we are not going to get any more information through the courts about this proposal until after 11 March, after the state election—when, hopefully, the Barnett government will be swept from power.

And of course the sorts of things we heard from Minister Cormann this morning—public harm, 'commercial and sensitive in nature', harm to the public interest—well, the public harm being done right now in Western Australia is the continued destruction of the beautiful Beeliar wetlands and the death of native species. And I have to say, I was somewhat stuck for words a couple of weeks ago when the local WA environment minister said that actually more Western Australians will be able to see the Beeliar wetlands once the road is constructed, because they will drive across them. The man was serious! He was serious when he made that statement. That is just a slap in the face to Western Australians who care deeply about the Beeliar wetlands, and there are protests down there every single day; ordinary folk are down there protesting.

Senator Cormann talked about an improved amenity. It will not be an improved amenity. The Beeliar wetlands have sat there for generations, and now it will be the legacy of the Barnett government that it destroyed them. As I said, most Western Australians want this matter held over until after the state election. And of course what Minister Cormann did not say—and that is more our commentary today—is that tens of thousands of the Commonwealth moneys have been spent keeping those documents secret. It would be good to get to the true cost, but it is tens of thousands of dollars that have been spent keeping the documents away from the public. What is in the documents that the Liberal government both here and in Western Australia do not want the public to see?

It has also been, as Senator Pratt said, a road to nowhere. The state Liberal ministers have been publicly disagreeing with one another about where the road should come up, and most recently Mr Barnett has said that there will be a tunnel under the harbour, but we are yet to see any details, any costings and so on. Mark McGowan, the leader of the Labor Party in Western Australia, has been absolutely firm and clear that a Labor government will not continue with Roe 8. Again, the federal Liberal government has tried to say, 'That's not your decision to make and you can't put public funds into other roads and the public transport that Western Australians so desperately need.'

So, again, we do not know how Roe 8 was planned. It appears that there was never a business case; it was a whim of former Prime Minister Abbott. He handed this money to Western Australia. And why did he do that? Because he knew then that the Barnett government was in deep trouble. This is the most unpopular state government in Western Australia for a very long time. It has incurred massive debts. It has shown itself to be a government that absolutely cannot complete projects on time. We have seen the debacle of the Fiona Stanley Hospital that has cost millions and millions of taxpayer dollars. We have seen the debacle of the stadium. We have seen the debacle of the children's hospital. And now we are seeing the debacle of the destruction of really sensitive native wetlands in Beeliar. And it should stop. It is tragic, what is going on there.

This matter is not going to go away. Ms MacTiernan is not going to stop in her quest to get to the truth of this through the court documents. The best the minister, Senator Cormann, could have done today would have been to not quote documents—quote from paid political advertising in the local community newspaper from the member for Tangney. It was paid political advertising that he tried to dress up as facts. They were not facts. That was a paid political ad in the local freely distributed community newspaper. And, once again, the minister hides behind trumped up political statements instead of the truth.

Again, we do not get any further to the truth about Roe 8 today, and it is really interesting, when you see the media in Western Australia, how the federal Liberal Party distances itself from the absolutely on-the-nose Barnett government, where announcements are made without their state colleagues standing next to them. One lot is going in the east and one in the west. The Barnett government is doomed. It is a government that will be voted out of office come 11 March, and then we will get to the truth of what is in these documents, because a Labor government—

Debate interrupted.