State Labor’s ‘duplicity’ on airport: MP
Vasse MLA Libby Mettam says her Freedom of Information Act inquiries about Busselton Airport’s stalled passenger terminal show “duplicity” from WA’s Labor Government.
Ms Mettam said the documents showed the Government knew the airport project was under way and difficult to “unpick”, despite Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan’s intervention through a budget review.
Ms Mettam rejected Premier Mark McGowan’s recent response to Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman’s own FOI inquiries in which he said the Government was “pushing hard for this project to succeed”.
“It was evident that before the value optimisation review had even taken place, the McGowan Labor Government was actively considering altering and scaling down the (airport) project,” she said.
“The FOI documents make very clear that the minister’s office was well aware that the City of Busselton should be advised of any changes to the terminal contract, prior to the contract being signed.”
Earlier this month, the Times reported Mr McGowan scolded Busselton chiefs for breaching funding requirements after failing to tell the South West Development Commission the terminal contract was signed with builder Pindan.
This occurred despite the City announcing the deal at a tourism function attended by SWDC chief executive Rebecca Ball, who later said she had no recollection of the announcement.
Ms MacTiernan told the Times decisions about the airport were driven by $40 billion in State debt “left by the Liberals and Nationals”.
“In the lead-up to the Budget, we needed to understand what was possible,” she said.
“On completion of the review, we made a decision to continue with the landside works. However, we decided the financially responsible thing to do would be to work towards securing an airline before commencing construction of the new terminal.
“The clear evidence of our commitment to giving the project every chance to succeed is that we have kept the allocation for the terminal in the Budget at a time when we have had to make some very tough decisions.”
Ms Mettam’s “inability to grasp that spending $12 million on a termi- nal that has yet to find a customer sadly suggests the Liberals have yet to grasp basic economic management,” Ms MacTiernan said.
Busselton chief executive Mike Archer said the Pindan contract was now suspended rather than terminated as the City continued discussions with airlines.
“While costs (of changing the contract) were initially borne as a result of the delay in works, Pindan has since agreed to halt any additional costs associated with the suspension,” he said.
“These costs were paid through the project budget funded by the State Government.”
Mr Archer also rejected the Premier’s claim the City breached funding requirements.
“The City held regular meetings with all major stakeholders involved in the (airport) governance committee, including SWDC, in the months leading up to the signing of the contact,” he said.
“All Government department stakeholders . . . had been advised that the City would be undertaking tender award and contractor engagement at some point between January 31 and February 6, 2018.”
The contract was also reported in council minutes, he said.