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The Minister “Never Responsible” once again sheds responsibility – this time the Powerstation HIA

By Jonathon Reynolds 9 August 2008 19

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.

What’s Your opinion?


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19 Responses to
The Minister “Never Responsible” once again sheds responsibility – this time the Powerstation HIA
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Deano 9:53 am 13 Aug 08

Jonathon Reynolds said :

Full kudos to Professor Capon for standing up for the community as a whole and realising that the terms of reference on the HIA were actually far broader reaching.[\quote]

Rubbish. The good professor was way out of line in taking the HIA in the direction he was going. If he was going to consider adverse health effects from depressed property prices was he also going to consider the positive effects of reduced bill rage incidents from less expensive electricity?

However it seems awfully suspicious that the government appointed community representative Anne Cahill Lambert obviously does not seem to have the interests of the wider community at heart, instead fully supporting the Minister and welcoming the canning of the HIA. Is there an allegiance to the Minister/Government that should have been publicly declared?

I would suggest you do some more research on her before slandering her name.

Jonathon Reynolds 12:45 am 13 Aug 08

B/s justification from Katy…. “Ms Gallagher said continuing with the health impact study would create two very similar processes and it was better for the work to go into the environmental study.

Given the the HIA report was due to be handed down about now… hard to see how these are two very similar processes. Can someone please explain that by delivering the report on the HIA, the effort would better applied to undertaking the EIS that hasn’t even begun?

The Canberra Times is reporting the story as follows:
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/gallagher-defends-decision-to-axe-group/1242495.aspx

Full kudos to Professor Capon for standing up for the community as a whole and realising that the terms of reference on the HIA were actually far broader reaching.

However it seems awfully suspicious that the government appointed community representative Anne Cahill Lambert (who according to the ACT Health website is credited with “the building of communities” – http://www.health.act.gov.au/c/health?a=da&did=10084012&pid=1192598871) obviously does not seem to have the interests of the wider community at heart, instead fully supporting the Minister and welcoming the canning of the HIA. Is there an allegiance to the Minister/Government that should have been publicly declared?

Deano 12:39 am 13 Aug 08

Professor Anthony Capon, head of the study group has commented:

Professor Capon said the group’s terms of reference did not restrict them to simply advising the Health Minister.
He feared that indirect health issues related to the project, such as social health and economic impacts, would not be included in the environmental study.
“Usually an EIS focuses on the direct health impact so it doesn’t tend to look so comprehensively at health,” he said.
“A development like this … is likely to put further downward pressure on housing in the area. This could potentially have significant impact on people’s economic circumstances and consequently health and wellbeing.”

The words ‘loose’ and ‘cannon’ come to mind.

sepi 6:00 pm 11 Aug 08

if community members who were worried about the fumes from the powerstation had commissioned a health report,using public funds/donations, and then buried the results, then maybe that would be a fair questions.

neanderthalsis 5:15 pm 11 Aug 08

Can we FOI the HIA?

I don’t know whether they actually got to the stage of reporting the outcomes to the Minister, but I’m sure what they had would make an interesting bedtime read.

VicePope 4:45 pm 11 Aug 08

I’ve been wondering about this one for a while.
Just say, suppose the health assessment, environmental assessment and any other processes are done by experts in a credible way. And just say they conclude that the power station can and should go ahead, in the form originally proposed (this is hypothetical land, the kingdom of the speculative). Would the Macarthur nimbies and their urgers accept the outcome?

Because, if they won’t, it suggests that (as I had been thinking) they don’t really care about the process but the outcome.

peterh 3:39 pm 11 Aug 08

sepi said :

This is unbelievable!

How can they keep getting away with this type of thing?

:Meanwhile they are running ads in the Canberra Times about how they are improving Community Consultation, how they really want to know what we want etc.

Well I want to know what is in this report.

ps – I can’t believe how many large govt ads are in the CT these days – the last organisation I worked for couldn’t afford ads in teh CT at all it costs so much. I’d say they are wasting heaps more on all these ads than they are on public artwork, which is at least of lasting benefit.

sepi,

want them to stop getting away with this?

vote the b*st*rds out…

sepi 10:33 pm 10 Aug 08

Geez – I hadn’t even thought of the call-in powers.

And then soon aftger they do that they’ll juggle the ministry, so that the new minister can remain blameless.

ant 9:37 pm 10 Aug 08

This government is behaving like a private company running the city, rather than a group of people elected to represent the people, to protect their interests and see that the right thing is done.

teepee 9:33 pm 10 Aug 08

I bet London to a brick that this project gets “called in” once the election is out of the way. ie:Labor’s Planning Minister abandons the planning process, including the EIS and issues a declaration that the project must proceed as proposed because of the “overwelming economic benefit” or some other similar basis.

The HIA and EIS are merely cosmetic holding jobs to make people think that due process will be followed. Then after the election the Planning Minister will use the short-circuit mechanisms under planning law to give this project a unilateral Ministerial sign-off.

deezagood 9:05 pm 10 Aug 08

And as a Canberra tax payer, I resent that my tax dollars were wasted to fund a HIA that will never see the light of day.

deezagood 8:58 pm 10 Aug 08

The funny thing is Jonathon, that the Macarthur/Fadden et al folks have been branded Nimbies (by lord Stanhope himself) and will no doubt be blamed and howled down should this project fail to get off the ground. I think the project has merit – in the right location … and I still don’t understand the obsession with the Macarthur location. And if they had commenced an EIS when they first planned the power station, it would be finished by now. Interestingly a proper EIS takes a full year (due to the requirement to monitor noise/smog/air etc… to account for all seasonal variables) but I read somewhere that the CTC folks need a decision by December. I wonder what this means for the EIS (which is being commissioned and funded by ACTEWAGL!!!).

The whole process has been shambolic from the get-go. First the tiny development application signage placed up during school holidays in an obscure lane – proposing an extremely large power station next to a residential suburb. Confusion about the location leading to most people believing the power station to be in Hume. Zero community consultation at this stage. Then after many protests, some token consultation, but all the while with the proponants stating that the project will be going ahead no matter what. ACTEWAGL reps admits that the government ‘granted’ the land (zoned as a broadacre buffer zone) to ACTEWAGL for this project. Development application submission time is extended beyond the initial few weeks. Just days before the submission date (after the community spent much time writing and submitting their objections) the project is significantly downscaled and the Williamsdale power plant plan is announced (rendering our objections null and void). Many people believe a power station will not be built in Macarthur and so fail to submit their objections to the adjusted Development application. I applaud the government and ACTEW for this particular tactic – an extremely clever move to confuse and divide the community. Didn’t work though – but 10 points for trying. The community must have raised enough legitimate concerns about pollution to warrant the government’s decision to fund a Health Impact Assessment – by a truly independant panel of experts. The HIA submission date draws nearer; and hey presto … the government suddenly announced an EIS! I would LOVE to know what was in that HIA, but I’m guessing we will never find out. Must have been pretty damning though, because the government has decided to demand the EIS that everyone seemed keen to avoid. A proper EIS (I wonder how proper it really will be, given that it is funded by ACTEWAGL) takes a year – but CTC won’t wait that long. Watch this space.

sepi 1:43 pm 10 Aug 08

Pr and advertising about their token consultation efforts used to work for them in the past. They got away with it for years, with issues that only affected a couple of suburbs – like the massive redevelopment of Goodwin village in Ainslie, where they sent letters to 17 houses and called that consultation. Or the dragway debacle where they set up a local residents representative group of 3 residents, and told those 3 people they were not allowed to consult residents, or inform them of anything.

But since the closing the schools debacle, most of Canberra has now realised that this govt’s idea of consultation is to put a tiny notice in the paper, or letterbox a handful of people, and then call a mtg where they present their idea as a done deal. They then continually refer to the ‘consultation’ with locals that they have done.

This process used to convince the rest of Canberra that some efforts had been made at consultation. But now that huge numbers of Canberrans across the city have experienced this type of ‘consultation’, we are no longer fooled.

Next Saturday I’m going to ‘value’ the govt ads in the CT and see what they are spending on promoting themselves.

miz 10:39 am 10 Aug 08

Govt and ACTEW ads ad infinitum – they have obviously cranked up the PR. How can they think that PR and advertising will substitute for due process and consultation?

miz 10:35 am 10 Aug 08

I’m now concerned about the independence factor. At least the HIA was independent, but who knows what bits will see the light of day now? The HIA’s findings so far ought to be published.

The desperate political shunting of this issue shows that it stinks, and badly.

So much of the proposal (as put to ACTPLA) has problems, including unsubstantiated assertions, given what I read in the CT http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/planners-find-21-problem-areas-in-data-city-project/1237532.aspx

ant 10:33 am 10 Aug 08

Sepi, I wonder if the gov’t running those big, expensive ads in the CT might account for the lack of investigative CT work into issues such as this? Just a thought.

this is disgraceful though. Calling for an enquiry, and then scotching it? This is more than “lack of consultation”; the government seems to be actively supressing any information that might prevent their building this facility. Utterly disgraceful.

sepi 10:26 am 10 Aug 08

This is unbelievable!

How can they keep getting away with this type of thing?

:Meanwhile they are running ads in the Canberra Times about how they are improving Community Consultation, how they really want to know what we want etc.

Well I want to know what is in this report.

ps – I can’t believe how many large govt ads are in the CT these days – the last organisation I worked for couldn’t afford ads in teh CT at all it costs so much. I’d say they are wasting heaps more on all these ads than they are on public artwork, which is at least of lasting benefit.

Thumper 9:50 am 10 Aug 08

Ah yes, good open and transparent government like we were promised at the last election.

Whatsup 8:47 am 10 Aug 08

Of course the minister already knew what was in the report. If it was good news for the development and worth positive political points it would have been published.

So what information was exposed by the Health ‘experts’ the needs to be hidden until after the election ?

And I thought that we were finally going to get some facts… silly me !

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