A speech in regards to the interim report of the select Committee on St Clair Land Swap.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:00): I move:
That the interim report of the select committee be noted.
This committee is one of the relatively recently established ones, and for that reason we have a bit more evidence to receive, I think, before we are able to provide a full report, so in effect we are tabling an interim report, which will enable us to release all the evidence we have received so far. As I said in one of my speeches calling for the committee, transparency is an important part of this matter, and therefore all the evidence, with the exception of that taken in camera, should be placed on the public record.
At the outset I also extend my thanks to the other members of the committee: the Hon. Kyam Maher, the Hon. Mark Parnell, the Hon. David Ridgway and the Hon. Russell Wortley. More recently we have struggled to get the full membership of the committee present, but that is a reflection of the fact that we are reaching an end of the parliamentary sittings. I also thank our secretary, Anthony Beasley, for his attempts at diarising these things, organising witnesses, and so forth.
To date we have received 10 submissions and heard from 15 witnesses. They have been: Renewal SA, the City of Charles Sturt (both the CEO and separately from the mayor, who was really elected on this issue), and from other counsellors. The chief set of witnesses we have heard from have been local community groups and concerned residents. I will make some remarks in relation to some of the evidence we have received so far.
The origin of the land swap has some history. My observation—and I think the conclusion reached by the Ombudsman—is that this decision, which has caused so much community outrage, was really driven by the 30-Year Plan and the obsession within government of transit-orientated developments. Woodville became the focus of what really was supposed to be the pilot, and the council fell into line with the state government rather than seeing itself as an independent body that needed to take into consideration the wishes of its community.
We have clearly advanced a fair way down the track to the point even where the minister has now signed the DPA. The rail lines electrification has fallen off the agenda, so that initial reason has almost become redundant, yet the proponents, particularly on council, have dug themselves in so far that I think they feel that it would be too much loss of face for them to reverse their position.
The roles, particularly in the initial decision, of the member for Croydon, the member for Cheltenham and the member for Enfield really do not place them in a good light. It really has been a Labor conspiracy that the Labor Party controls that council, so we have ended up with this situation. We may yet receive evidence from the member for Croydon. He has written to the committee, and I quote from his email. He says that allegations have been made against him in some of the submissions:
...that the person must know are false, or in which the person is recklessly indifferent to their truth or falsity, or in which the person's allegation pre-supposes a relationship or communications between us that did not exist at the relevant time or ever. In some cases, it is rather like being stalked by complete strangers or people with whom I have had no communication for years.
He clearly feels he would like to provide evidence and he, of course, has that right, as do all citizens.
It is quite a dysfunctional council and we certainly heard evidence of that. We heard evidence of the council that existed prior to the 2010 elections, which was the subject of the Ombudsman's report. I think the Ombudsman's recommendations and findings are quite limited by the existing provisions in the Local Government Act but, certainly, a number of those recommendations, if you read between the lines, indicate that, had the act been written differently, some of those councillors would have come in for some fairly strong penalties for their behaviour and collusion—certainly, unethical behaviour—and some of it may not have been able to be pinned down.
As a result, there has been not a single action that has taken place against any of them for those things. I note, too, that there was a lot of legal wrangling to try to fend off the Ombudsman from providing a report. There is a lack of trust in the community and on council, and it has really just become a battleground and the situation we are in is really quite sad.