Another sitting week and once again, this Barr Labor/Greens government has demonstrated its ad hoc governance of our Territory.
The ACT government has established a panel to progress the Federal Golf Club’s development plans. This move comes mere weeks after the Golf Club defected from Clubs ACT to Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s pet peak body group, Canberra Community Clubs.
The Golf Club had floated the idea of re-development from as early as 1999 and in 2015, discussed plans to develop villas overlooking the golf course.
In the Assembly this week when asked to outline the government’s criteria in deciding when to set up government facilitated panels on behalf of proponents of development proposals, the Chief Minister insisted that this was a “one-off” commitment.
On Tuesday 1 August, I received an invitation from Minister Gentleman’s office to attend the last 30 minutes of the panel’s first meeting which took place on the evening of Thursday 3 August.
This invitation was sent to me in my capacity as Member for Kurrajong.
I know I’m new to the Assembly but this whole situation strikes me as odd – for a number of reasons:
- this is the first I’ve been invited to a government briefing without requesting one through the Minister’s office (and usually it takes a number of emails and follow up phone calls before it happens);
- two days’ notice of a meeting issued to MLAs during sitting week – did the Minister expect me not to turn up (or hoped I couldn’t)?;
- why is the government organising a meeting for the proponents? Why aren’t the proponents doing it themselves as is usually the case?
- why is the government doing it now given the Federal Golf Club hasn’t lodged a development application yet?
And, most interestingly, why now – a matter of mere weeks after the Golf Club withdrew their membership from Clubs ACT?
The Golf Club publicly foreshadowed that if they joined Canberra Community Clubs, they would be “viewed more favourably by the government”.
It seems their instincts were spot on because as far as I know – and I’ve asked my Assembly colleagues – no government facilitated panel has been set up previously to progress the Golf Club’s development plans. This is despite ideas of re-development being floated around for the entire time the ACT Labor government has been in power.
And who can blame the Golf Club? It is doing exactly what it should be doing in the circumstances – looking out for the interests of its members. It’s just too bad that under this government, that means being forced to align with the Chief Minister’s inner clique.
And, having taken up Minister Gentleman’s invitation to attend the last 30 minutes of this panel meeting, it’s actually a shame that this is a “one-off” community panel is, indeed, a “one-off” because – at least the part of the meeting I was allowed to attend – it was clear that the senior government officials and public servants who were chairing this meeting did their best to ensure all community groups that were invited (to this invitation only meeting) got a say and went home with a commitment from the government to conscientiously do all the “homework” that was set for them.
But of course, this courtesy was afforded to this particular group, according to the Chief Minister as a “one-off” commitment that had “nothing” to do with the Golf club’s recent decision to align with Canberra Community Clubs.
But then again, this is not the first or only “one-off” decisions made by this government.
The decision to allow owners of an inner south Fluffy block to buy back their block at 2014 prices days after it transpired that a Turner resident was denied the same right was also deemed a “one-off” decision.
Was the decision to purchase land in Dickson for $3.9 million to lease it back to the CFMEU for $1 a year rent a “one-off”?
Was the decision to purchase land at Glebe Park for $4 million despite a valuation of $900,000 and through a process which the Auditor-General found “lacked transparency, accountability and rigour” a “one-off”?
Was the decision to exempt the government’s pet light rail project from the usual noise restrictions that apply to every other development a “one-off”?
Was the decision to exempt the Labor Club’s development of apartments in Braddon from any lease variation charges a “one-off”?
The Chief Minister is clearly a fan of “one-off” deals.
Then where, Chief Minister, was the “one-off” ex gratia payment for a little Canberra boy for the devastating dog attack which has left him scarred for life?
And where, Chief Minister, was the “one-off” commitment for continued funding for SHOUT when it needed you most?
When you have a number of “one-off” deals that benefit a certain class of industry, peak body and developers, it is no longer a “one-off”. It is a pattern of a serious lack of accountability, transparency and integrity. It is a pattern of a stale, arrogant government that is well past its expiry date.