WestConnex Stage 3

Today in Parliament, Abigail successfully moved that the base-case financial model for the sale of 51% of WestConnex be made publicly available.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: I move:

That private members' business item No. 217 outside the order of precedence be considered in a short form format.

Motion agreed to.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (21:26:35): I seek leave to amend private members' business item No. 217 outside the order of precedence for today of which I have given notice by:

1.In the preamble omitting "21 days" and inserting instead "28 days". 

2.In paragraph (b) omitting "all documents regarding the base-case financial models" and inserting instead "the base‑case financial model".

Leave granted.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: Accordingly, I move:

That, under Standing Order 52, there be laid upon the table of the House within 28 days of the date of passing of this resolution the following documents in the possession, custody or control of the Department of Transport, the Treasury, the New South Wales Treasurer or the Minister for Transport and Roads:

(a)all documents specifying:

(i)any costs that may be incurred by the State if the stage 3 WestConnex contracts are varied or terminated;

(ii)any costs of varying or terminating the contract between the Sydney Motorway Corporation or Department of Transport with the LSB Joint Venture (comprising Lendlease Engineering, Samsung C&T Corporation and Bouygues Construction) for the construction of the mainline tunnel of the M4-M5 Link on WestConnex; and

(iii)any costs of varying or terminating the contract between the Sydney Motorway Corporation or Department of Transport and JCL Joint Venture (comprising John Holland & CPB Contractors) for the design and construction of the WestConnex Rozelle Interchange and the Iron Cove Link.

(b) the base-case financial model for the sale of 51 per cent of WestConnex; and

(c)all documents relating to the 2017 removal of the Sydney Gateway project from the WestConnex project.

The Public Accountability Committee's report from December last year entitledThe impact of the WestConnex Project highlighted a number of concerns around the lack of Government transparency relating to the WestConnex project and made a series of recommendations to address that lack of transparency. The Government's response to that report was disappointing. It effectively ignored the recommendations and refused to provide the information requested or to commit to further transparency. I move this motion calling for papers under Standing Order 52 in that context. I seek to obtain information to enable greater transparency and accountability around the WestConnex project in the public interest. After discussions with the Government and in an effort to be reasonable, as always, The Greens have agreed to the two amendments to the original motion, which now appear in the amended motion.

The Hon. DAMIEN TUDEHOPE (Minister for Finance and Small Business) (21:28:11): The Government opposes this order for papers under Standing Order 52, which is the subject of the motion. The Government has supplied numerous documents in relation to the WestConnex project over time. The Government complied with all legislative requirements relating to the disclosure of information about the impact of WestConnex in response to the inquiry. TheWestConnex Business Case Executive Summary from 2013 and theWestConnex Updated Strategic Business Case from 2015 have been released publicly with redacted commercial‑in-confidence information.

The WestConnex project deeds, including any commercial-in-confidence material, have been published online in accordance with Government policy and the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009. In May 2019 the Government published the WestConnex project summary, which provides an overview of the project, its history and contractual parties. It also provides a high-level summary of key commercial terms, including a summary of the provisions of State-initiated changes and termination arrangements. I could go on. Standing Order 52 needs to be looked at by this House.

I see the Hon. John Graham is here and I know he has some reservations about this. There are three principal things that we need to be saying. First, has there been a legitimate request made for the documents in some form, either under the Government Information (Public Access) Act or a request to the Minister? Has there been some act where it can be demonstrated that the papers have been requested? Secondly, is the time limit for the production of the documents reasonable? In this case I note it has been amended from 21 days to 28 days. Again I suggest that that is potentially not reasonable. Thirdly, is there a legitimate forensic purpose for the production of the documents? Those things ought to be traversed by the mover of the motion to establish the rationale for making the application.

The production required by this call for papers represents a significant amount of time for the people who need to collate the material that is being sought. This is an extensive application made by the member, as the extension to 28 days recognises. This is costing the taxpayers of this State a significant amount of money. When Opposition members come in here and talk about the air-conditioning of schools and other programs that the Government needs to deliver they should bear that in mind because the resources that are attached to this application are resources that could be used elsewhere. I will have a lot more to say about that at a later date.

The Hon. JOHN GRAHAM (21:31:34): I speak for the Opposition on this motion. I have listened carefully to the Minister and I think it is helpful to the House for him to ask those questions and to assert those principles when dealing with these calls for papers. I welcome the member amending the motion to extend the time limit from 21 days to 28 days. This is a significant call for papers and I think that is helpful. I also note the other amendments. I note particularly paragraph (c) of the motion calling for all documents relating to the removal of the Sydney Gateway project from the WestConnex project. That may well be an extensive collection of papers, which should be noted and should be of some concern to the House. However, this is a matter of significant public concern and I will certainly be joining the member in examining those documents when they are returned to the Parliament.

The Opposition will be supporting this motion but I welcome the questions that have been raised by the Minister. One thing I will not accept is that there has been some sort of tradition of transparency around the WestConnex project. The secret arrangements put in place around the Sydney Motorway Corporation to shield it from public scrutiny were relatively unprecedented and have been of significant public concern. I welcome the documents the Government has released publicly but let us not pretend that this project has been up in lights in sharing this information with the public. That has not been the culture of this project. I fondly remember quizzing Sydney Motorway Corporation's chief executive Mr Dennis Cliche at budget estimates about his remuneration. It was one of my early budget estimates processes. In the end he did come clean, as he should have, and that was welcomed from a public point of view. We do not share the Minister's optimism about the tradition of transparency with this project. Labor will support the motion.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (21:33:52): In reply: I thank the Hon. Damien Tudehope and the Hon. John Graham for their contributions. We do not undertake these motions lightly. We understand that this does incur resources, not just for the Government but also for us because we are the ones who need to go through the documents. There are often privileged documents that our staff cannot access. So when we do this we know that a substantial portion of our own time needs to be put aside. This can be avoided by greater transparency. I note the Hon. Damien Tudehope's comments in relation to using other measures to obtain information. The concerns around transparency relating to the WestConnex project are longstanding and well known. The request for greater transparency was made by a committee as part of an inquiry and was included in the committee report. I note that the Government, despite reading that report, did not abide by the recommendations. It is that action that has brought us here. I thank honourable members.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (The Hon. Shayne Mallard): The question is that the motion be agreed to.

Motion agreed to.

Read the full transcript on Hansard here.

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