Time to end backroom deals on Austeel, say Greens

The Greens candidate for Port Stephens, Tom Griffiths, today called on the Carr government to publicly disclose what commitments it has signed off to on the proposed Austeel development.

Citing a statement by Austeel chief executive John Elmore in Wednesday’s Newcastle Herald that the company “had strong commitments from the government on this project which they have signed off on”, Mr Griffiths said that it was time for Mr Carr to lift the veil of secrecy that his government had drawn over this development proposal.

“People are getting understandably skeptical about the relationship between the major political parties and big business, particularly where these are behind closed doors,” Mr Griffiths said.

“The handling of the Austeel proposal is emerging as a planning fiasco that has wasted a vast amount of taxpayers’ money on consultants, and put existing and potential Hunter jobs at risk.

“Someone needs to be held accountable for this debacle,” Mr Griffiths said.

“The Government has basically offered Austeel an illegal site. It is in breach of Australia’s obligations under three International Treaties, not to mention the State’s own planning guidelines, and the NSW NPWS’s Plan of Management for the Kooragang Nature Reserve.”

“I now ask the Premier directly,” added Mr Griffiths, “What financial liabilities will the State be faced with if the Government fails to deliver this impossible site?

“The Greens have called over and over again for this matter to be openly discussed. It’s time for all the back room deals to end and for all the documentation to be put on the table.

“Continuing to hide behind the old shibboleth of “commercial in-confidence” denies people the basic democratic right of accountability.”

Greens Councillor and candidate for the State seat of Newcastle Ian McKenzie said that so called “briefings” to Council on this matter have been little more than sales pitches.

“I don’t know if Port Stephens Council has been given the full extent of the Government’s plans, but we certainly haven’t,” he said.

“People are entitled to ask `why all this secrecy?’ What is the government planning that it doesn’t want us to know about?”

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