2SM MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNINGS
THURSDAY, 10 DECEMBER 2020
SUBJECT: Leppington Triangle; Senate Inquiry into Western Sydney Airport; Federal ICAC.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: We’re joined by Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Good morning Catherine.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Good morning, Marcus.
PAUL: I mean, this is, look, it’s concerning. The reason it’s concerning is because it’s our money, Australian taxpayer dollars. I would love to get, you know, 22 times what my house is worth and I’d love taxpayers to foot the bill, is not likely to happen though.
KING: No, I think this has, as you pointed out, been a highly unusual transaction, so much so that the Australian National Audit Office questioned the ethics of the purchase and the way in which it had been done. Western Sydney Airport, we all know it’s important, it’s important for Sydney, it’s important to the nation. It’s one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects. So, what the Senate did yesterday is it agreed to hold a senate inquiry into Western Sydney Airport transactions and in particular the Leppington Triangle. We want to make sure, you know, this is a very, very big project and if Leppington happened, we suspect there’s probably some other things that we don’t know about either and there’s a need for transparency across this infrastructure project and all over. But what we’re seeing again for the Morrison Government is they’ve been trying to shut this down, they’ve not been forthcoming with any documents, they’ve said we weren’t properly briefed by the department and we’ve said well show us the briefings then. If there’s nothing to hide here there’s no reason for us not to see those. They’ve refused at every opportunity to release any documents so I think it’s important that the Senate tries to use its power to get to the bottom of this and really expose, you know, are there lessons to be learned here from Leppington Triangle and how do we make sure it doesn’t happen again?
PAUL: Well that’s right Catherine, because for all we know that this could be just scratching the surface. And, you know, to have a Deputy Prime Minister refer to this purchase, as, quote unquote, “a bargain”. I wonder how many other “bargains” have been made with taxpayer dollars out there in Badgerys Creek.
KING: Exactly. I think we were all pretty gobsmacked frankly when the Deputy Prime Minister said it was “a bargain” and that over time we’d all come to see this as a great use of taxpayers’ money. I think we were all pretty surprised by that defence of the purchase. 22 times higher than the price of New South Wales Government paid for the land and for it to be valued just 11 months after it’s been purchased at $30 million at $3m, something’s gone very wrong here and there’s obviously a AFP investigation into the matter as well. But this sort of waste is really becoming quite endemic. We’ve seen it across Sports Rorts, we’ve seen it over a number of other programs as well and this scandal we really need to get to the bottom of. All we ask of the Morrison Government is to be transparent. It is really important that there is transparency around these sorts of transactions, and Western Sydney Airport is billions and billions of dollars, if this is just the tip of the iceberg we should make sure that we shine some light on it and get some value for money out of taxpayers’ funding.
PAUL: Does it concern you and your colleagues that the company that benefited from this deal, the Leppington Pastoral Company, that they are a donor to the federal Liberal party?
KING: Well I think that’s a matter for public record and we’ve certainly highlighted that as well and that’s for the government to explain how that happened. I think if you look at the audit report into this transaction it particularly points that there’s some really odd things happening, a valuer who wasn’t actually allowed to be on the land at all, a valuer that was put up by the land owner as the person that they’d accept, some really odd timing around land zoning decisions and the rushing through of this particular transaction, meetings in coffee shops with not just this landholder but other landholders around the area that are not documented and unclear what the actual purpose of any of those meetings are. You know, obviously deciding that they’re going to take compulsory acquisition off the table and no explanation as to how that’s occurred. There’s a whole lot in this that I think really smacks of everything that’s wrong in politics at the federal level at the moment, in particular the way the Morrison Government is handling things. Just a lack of transparency, a real arrogance about thinking they can just shove everything through the parliament, hide everything they don’t want to do, cut funding to the Audit Office. I think it’s why a federal ICAC, an independent corruption commission is pretty important at the moment.
PAUL: Absolutely. And I’ve been talking to Albo about that on a number of occasions. There’s no doubt we do need a Federal ICAC not this integrity commission that is a toothless tiger that’s been put forward by the Attorney General and others. That won’t work. It won’t be retrospective, in other words, it will not be able to look at these sorts of deals, including the one we’re talking about this morning Catherine.
KING: No, that’s exactly right. I think again this is a government that drags its feet to getting a federal ICAC or whatever the model, we hopefully end up with something. They’re now saying we’re still consulting about it and we’ll get there. I suspect we’ll get to the next election and we won’t have seen anything happening further on this either. This is a government that doesn’t like scrutiny, it shuts down every debate in Parliament it possibly can, cuts funding to the Auditor General, stalls on federal ICAC, ministers don’t turn up at Senate hearings, they’ve been called to appear before senate hearings on the Sports Rorts scandal and former ministers don’t turn up at those. I think all of those things point to a really clear need that we need better governance. If people have to have faith in the federal parliament, if we’re to have faith in our politicians you actually do need to have transparency and people have to say this is what happened. If there’s a mistake been made here or something’s happened that’s wrong, then the government should just fess up to it and actually take responsibility. But so far I’ve had Michael McCormack, I’ve had Paul Fletcher, I’ve had Alan Tudge and Scott Morrison, all saying with this Leppington Triangle it wasn’t us, it wasn’t us, we didn’t make the decision, it had nothing to do with that. So, anyway, we will try and get to the bottom of it as best we can.
PAUL: Yeah, the way these blokes pass things around they’d make a wonderful first grade football team, good to talk to you, Catherine.
KING: The handball, as we call it in Victoria, they’re very good at it.
PAUL: Very true. All right, appreciate it.
KING: Good to talk to you Marcus.
CATHERINE KING – TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – 2SM MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING – THURSDAY, 10 DECEMBER 2020