Ms JODI McKAY ( Strathfield ) ( 17:05 ): I bring to the attention of the House an issue of importance not only to my community but also to residents across Sydney who are being impacted by major projects such as WestConnex, the Sydney Metro and light rail. I feel compelled to speak on this issue because of the hypocritical response of the Premier in answering a question from the member for Balmain last week. This issue I speak of is compulsory acquisition—an issue I have been raising for many months. It is a flawed process being used across my community and many others. Last week in this House the Premier said:
We have to be generous and caring and we have to do everything possible to minimise the inconvenience.
That is not the first time the Premier has said this, and yet he does nothing to change the outcome for impacted residents. This is yet another public relations stunt from a Premier who tells people what he thinks they want to hear. In my electorate and in the electorate of Summer Hill 180 properties, mostly residential, have been acquired for the M4 East tunnel. Like the member for Summer Hill, I have worked with many residents whose homes have been acquired against their wishes. There has been no empathy, no caring approach and no generosity from a system does not take into account the personal impact of losing one's home. It does not take into account the anxiety and disruption that are inherent in being told you can no longer live in your house.
In the Premier's response last week he indicated that he had asked Mike Pratt, the State's Customer Service Commissioner to "oversee the acquisitions recently identified as being part of stage 3…" He also indicated Mr Pratt would be "making some recommendations". My questions to the Premier are: Is this a formal review? What are the terms of reference? When will Mr Pratt report? Will his findings be made public? Why will the review just cover those 28 home acquisitions and not every acquisition across every infrastructure project? Finally, why does the Premier think this is just a customer service issue when the legislation that regulates the compulsory acquisition process, the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991, is clearly flawed?
The Government knows it is flawed because in May 2012 then Minister Pearce launched the Government's examination of the just terms legislation by announcing that David Russell, SC, would carry out the work. We have the consultation paper dated October 2012. We also have a media release from Minister Constance, as then acting Minister, dated 26 June 2013. That release announced the release of the consultation paper. The eight-month delay in releasing the consultation paper has never been explained. In that June 2013 media release Minister Constance said:
The legislation has an impact on the rights of individual landowners, and t he Government is committed to ens uring it is efficient and fair.
In the 16 May 2012 release then Minister Pearce said:
It is well known that compulsory acquisition of private land and its impacts have been an ongoing area of stak eholder concern for many years.
Yet here we are, 4½ years since the review was announced, with all sorts of promises and the Government has still not released the report. We know from a freedom of information [FOI] request that the report was handed to the Minister in February 2014. The report took two years to complete and it is 2½ years since it was given to the Minister. The report's cost was $98,000. We know from that FOI request that a Cabinet minute was prepared; however, we do not know whether it went to Cabinet, because the Government will not say. My message to the Premier is: Release this report, stop the bleeding-heart routine and actually do something. Releasing this report would be a good start.
I suggest that the Premier read the Joint Standing Committee on the Office of the Valuer General's report into the land valuations system which was released in May 2013. The Government has never responded to that report which also outlined deficiencies in the legislation as it relates to the Valuer General's office and its role in the acquisition process. It makes a number of very sensible recommendations but, of course, this Government has not responded to that report either. The Government is on the record agreeing that this process and legislation are letting people down. The Premier is also on the record admitting people are suffering and the Government has to do better. Yet the responses to date have been woefully inadequate, and I will not let this issue go.