Air­port com­mit­ment ques­tioned

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

War­ren-Black­wood MLA Terry Red­man says the re­sults from a re­cent Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest shows a de­lib­er­ate lack of po­lit­i­cal will to build Bus­sel­ton Air­port’s in-limbo pas­sen­ger ter­mi­nal.

And he’s raised ques­tions about who paid the bill to set­tle a can­celled con­struc­tion con­tract for the ter­mi­nal.

Mr Red­man raised ques­tions in Par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day, say­ing Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Alan­nah MacTier­nan’s over­sight of the process showed se­ri­ous dis­crep­an­cies and dou­ble stan­dards.

Cen­tral to Mr Red­man’s ques­tions was the tim­ing of a con­tract to build the ter­mi­nal signed by the City of Bus­sel­ton with pre­ferred ten­derer Pin­dan on Fe­bru­ary 2, an­nounced at a tourism func­tion at Bunker Bay that night at­tended by new South West De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion chief ex­ec­u­tive Re­becca Ball.

How­ever, in the FOI doc­u­ments, Ms Ball said she didn’t know about the con­tract sign­ing un­til sev­eral days later, by which time the Govern­ment moved to stop work on the project.

Mr Red­man said the le­gal con­se­quences of not hon­our­ing the con­tract was a fee of about one per cent of the $12.5 mil­lion con­tract cost.

“Does the min­is­ter con­cede that her re­quest of the City ‘not’ to pro­ceed with the con­struc­tion of the ter­mi­nal build­ing was made with the full knowl­edge and over­sight by her agency of the City of Bus­sel­ton’s ac­tiv­i­ties up to and in­clud­ing the sign­ing of the con­tract?”

Pre­mier Mark Mc­Gowan re­sponded to the claims, at­tack­ing Mr Red­man for not nam­ing his sources for the Bunker Bay tourism gath­er­ing, and say­ing the pre­vi­ous Govern­ment’s in­vest­ment in the air­port was “a prin­ci­pal ex­am­ple” of the Lib­eral-Na­tional govern­ment’s par­lous eco­nomic record.

He ex­pected if the pre­vi­ous govern­ment awarded $70 mil­lion to the project, “they would’ve se­cured an air­line first, be­fore such time as they de­cided to spend the money”.

An­swer­ing ques­tions about the Bunker Bay fo­rum, the Pre­mier said Ms Ball had “no rec­ol­lec­tion of the an­nounce­ment,” and if it was in­deed made, the City was at fault.

“If you are sug­gest­ing she’s not telling the truth, if you’re sug­gest­ing she’s made this up, well then I’d ad­vise you to go out­side this cham­ber and say it,” he said.

“The fact that the City of Bus­sel­ton pub­licly ac­knowl­edged the award­ing of the de­sign and con­struc­tion of the ter­mi­nal prior to con­sult­ing with the SWDC was a breach of their obli­ga­tions as a re­cip­i­ent of State fund­ing,” Mr Mc­Gowan said.

“I un­der­stand the SWDC and the City of Bus­sel­ton worked con­struc­tively to im­ple­ment a so­lu­tion aimed at mit­i­gat­ing fi­nan­cial ex­po­sure for the State, while con­tin­u­ing ef­forts to at­tract an air­line to the up­graded air­port.

“Our Govern­ment is com­mit­ted to ad­vanc­ing this project, pro­vided there is a cred­i­ble use for it,” Mr Mc­Gowan said. Mr Red­man was in­cred­u­lous at the re­sponse and said doc­u­ments showed SWDC and La­bor had no will to de­liver the ter­mi­nal.

The City of Bus­sel­ton con­firmed the sign­ing was an­nounced at the Aus­tralia’s South West fo­rum on Fe­bru­ary 2.

SWDC de­clined to an­swer ques­tions about Ms Ball’s rec­ol­lec­tion say­ing “po­lit­i­cal” in­quiries should be di­rected to the Govern­ment.

Vasse MLA Libby Met­tam, who also made FOI in­quiries, told the Times it was clear the Govern­ment was “un­pick­ing the project and well aware of the ten­der dead­lines”.

Tell us what you think. Email edi­tor@am­r­times.com.au or send us a let­ter.

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