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Monday, 12 October 2015
Page: 7391


Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (21:50): Tonight I rise on a matter of great concern to the people of the New South Wales Central Coast. Just over a week ago I was joined by nearly 1,000 local residents at a rally to protest this government's decision to build a new Australian Taxation Office building on prime waterfront land in Gosford. Getting 1,000 coasties together on a Saturday morning of the long weekend is a phenomenon unknown to the Central Coast. It reflects the outrage at the processes of this arrogant government, which has completely failed to consult with the local community. I will always welcome new jobs for Gosford. I have fought for and will continue to fight for more jobs in the region and for the people of our region to prosper, but the current member for Robertson and the government that she is a part of just do not understand the Central Coast. They do not get what locals need and they certainly do not care to listen to what locals want.

Gosford has one chance and one chance only to make this amazing site a massive drawcard for the region and to build a city centre that locals and visitors will want to come to and enjoy

The community lost a school; this was the site of the Gosford Public School. It was a vital part of the community of Gosford. It was dismantled and, in the course of that dismantling and demolition, there were many significant promises to the community to use this site right by the edge of the Brisbane water to provide a new vision for Gosford and a new vision of Gosford. That was to be done. It was understood by the community that is would be done with consultation. We expected an integrator, iconic, modern and sophisticated entry point to the Central Coast. That is what we were supposed to get.

What we have been served up by this arrogant Liberal Party is a brown, tax box monstrosity with no consultation and no transparency in the decision making. It is a disgraceful and ugly looking building of four floors on our site right by the water in Gosford. There were so many more suitable sites for this building and its workers. The community know it and the community are calling for this government to suspend the processes that they currently have in place, make time and have the respect to consult with the local people about an iconic building that will transform jobs and provide better outcomes for the Central Coast.

We already have one giant, nearly empty building that once housed the WorkCover employees that were brought there by the Labor Party. But with the change of government, the Liberal Party have slashed those local jobs. There are more than 550 locals gone from that workplace, from the government building in the heart of Gosford and from our local economy. The implications for the economy of Gosford city in particular are very significant. The WorkCover building already offers more than 5,200 square metres in the heart of Gosford that is ready to go. This government could have looked at that as a site in which to invest and bring those jobs; but, no, they know better are, they do not need to consult and they are ready to impose their ugly vision on the community and to walk away. Long after this government is gone, the people of the Central Coast will be saddled with a disgraceful, ugly building in the wrong spot that is going to compromise our future development.

There was another site on Mann Street, right beside the council chambers. I am led to believe that that was the second last option standing before this government decided to do some dodgy deal with the state government behind the scenes about this site. It would have been much better to have this proposed Australian Tax Office site beside the local council chambers. This site would have kept the waterfront site available for recreational space, for a performing arts centre or for it to been an iconic gateway to the Central Coast and the CBD. With the integrated planning of multiple developments across that site, there have three been proposals that were widely accepted by the community; but this government, in its arrogance, has decided to ignore that consultation, to deny that was ever undertaken and to impose their will on the people of the Central Coast. With 1,000 people protesting, they should stop and they should listen before they proceed with this disgraceful plan.

The questions are: what really happened, who intervened and when did they reject that site next to the council, inflicting this disaster on our community and our future? There is something terribly dodgy about this secret deal between two Liberal governments. It is a four floor, brown, brick box on a site where the community does know if it has been sold or if it has been leased. No-one is saying if it has been sold or if it has been leased to a Canberra developer who will be paid $70 million in rents for the next 10 years by this federal government. At the same time, we have got this government divesting itself of leases that it has right across Canberra and other places around the country. They have cut back the Australian Tax Office to the tune of thousands and thousands of employees.

We end up with this brown box and $70 million invested by the federal government in leases on it—then what? I fear it will be the same end that befell the WorkCover building: staff stripped out and sent back to Sydney, Canberra or Newcastle, which is where I understand all of these jobs are supposed to be coming from. As for selling this site, which is approved for buildings 12 to 16 stories high and is slated the community benefit, I would love someone to explain what sort of a developer would only build to four floors on a site approved for 12 to 16 floors. Even that worrying occasion does not add up. Is the rent of $70 million from the federal government making up for the eight floors or was the sale price so cheap that they can afford to build this disgraceful and ugly building on it?

We do not know and we do not know because the government chose a process that is completely opaque. They have hidden what they have done from public scrutiny and from the public of the seat of Robertson. Lucy Wicks, their current member, cannot or will not answer questions about this. Our waterfront is a place that the community was promised would be a vibrant new zone for Gosford—a jobs, recreation and cultural hub. But that is not what we are going to get if the member for Robertson and the member for Wentworth—the new Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull—push ahead against the community on this.

Why are we to be saddled with the miserly imposition of a brown, brick box built by a developer from Canberra? It is not even a local developer; they have gone to Canberra for it. Why are we to be ignored by this fake process, with no transparency, no dollar amounts revealed, no DA lodged without local council and no clarity around the council or the other body that has been involved in this site, the Central Coast Regional Development Corporation? Their involvement in the rezoning is also unknown. The community wants to know and has a right to know exactly how much money is changing hands and how much is being hived off for Mike Baird's bottom line at the expense of the good people of Gosford.

I stand with the community as we say yes to jobs for locals, yes to local building contracts and yes to local jobs. Look what the last Labor government's $7 million investment to the GP super clinic at West Gosford did the local jobs; it was part of an integrated and planned development. The services, the whole community development and the jobs that have grown in this project by the Gibbens Group on the Central Coast has created local jobs for local people with a local developer for the benefit of the local economy and the local community. There is a welcome for public servants on Mann Street, Donnison Street or Erina Street in Gosford, but not for what is on offer from this arrogant government that is disconnected from the people of the coast. If there are any jobs that are for locals rather than forced transfers from Canberra or Newcastle, the Central Coast will be very welcoming of that too. But you just cannot trust the people who have done this to us.

Right now the waterfront remains a precious space. It was supposed to be for us—for our community. We gave up a school for this. We deserve better than a brown tax box imposed by a developer from Canberra and funded by $70 million from the federal government in some dodgy deal with the Baird government in New South Wales. The Central Coast deserve better than this. This process should be stopped. Consultation should occur. This is a site for beautiful places to have coffee, cake, chianti, or beer and bangers—whatever your choice is. It was supposed to be our cultural heart and an innovative space for innovative 'Coastie' businesses and music, art, and sculpture, in iconic buildings. It has been sold out by the Liberals, and they should cease and desist immediately.