The ABC News Online is reporting that the Health Minister, Katy Gallagher has disbanded the Health Impact Assessment that was being undertaken into the Tuggeranong Data Centre and Gas Fired Power Station.
The former chair of the steering group has expressed concerns as to what will happen with the research that has already been done. An impressive team of experts was actually put together to analyse the exisiting data and new submissions (Video of the HIA community Forum on 16 July)
True to her typical form, the Minister Never Responsible Health Minister is claiming that the entire process is now out of her hands as there is now a wider EIS (Environmental Impact Study) being undertaken. She is desperately trying to bury whatever work was undertaken and along with it the findings. There is a very telling quote attributed to her: “I’m very confident that the work they’ve done will be handled through the consultants work but also if they feel that they want to make personal representations, then that that can be done through the EIS as well” (emphasis added)
From my understanding the HIA was to report back to the Minister by the middle of August 2008 (originally the terms of reference indicated the stipulated 28 July – Word Document). Given that the anticipated delivery date for the HIA was just days away I’d be very surprised that the Minister wasn’t well aware of the contents of the HIA report because if she was doing her job properly she would have had ongoing progress briefs, or otherwise provided with “intelligence” (internally leaked of course) as to the anticipated outcomes.
To make the issue go away for the upcoming election it was far easier for her to trash the report before it ever formally saw the light of day. Somewhat convenient given that the new EIS process outcomes called by the Planning Minister is not expected to be completed until well after the election.
If the Health Minister really did have any integrity, she would have delivered the HIA report. That document could then have been used as a benchmark to see if the wider EIS concurred or differed with these initial findings.
My recommendation to the CPR (Canberrans for Powerstation Relocation) would be to attempt to obtain the draft report under freedom of information provisions… whether the Minister and her Department attempt to block that request will be an good indicator of how transparent the government really is over this issue.