Airport commitment questioned

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Questions in Parliament have sought answers about the long-delayed passenger terminal for Busselton Airport.
Camera IconQuestions in Parliament have sought answers about the long-delayed passenger terminal for Busselton Airport. Credit: The West Australian, Geoffrey Thomas

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”.

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