Upper House MP Rod Barton has today called upon the Minister for Planning to assure the public that the North East Link public hearings won’t be hijacked by government-paid lawyers.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Barton questioned the request by lawyers for the government project managers for 9 days to be set aside for their argument.
“The project managers told the public that they did NOT require lawyers as the government’s expert panel would be qualified to review all submissions, yet they have hired a ‘top-end-the-town’ legal firm at taxpayers’ expense.”
“The lawyers have requested that they be allocated 9 full days to present the project to a panel of experts. Their request wipes out almost one third of the total hearing time, leaving dozens of submissions from the public, councils, sporting groups and community organisations to be squashed into the remaining time,” he said.
Mr Barton was also critical of the lawyers’ request for an additional day at the end of the hearing where they can argue against the submissions made by others.
“This is supposed to be a fair, just and transparent process – the public submissions were supposed to be uploaded to the government’s website; instead the submissions were sent to the project managers and their lawyers to review.”
This unusual practice of disclosing public submissions to only a select group of people has delayed their uploading to the government’s website, leaving those who wish to ask questions at the first directions hearing on Friday morning less than 72 hours to review the on-line submissions.
“The project manager’s lawyers are being paid for by the taxpayer and their request to dominate the hearings and refute the genuine concerns and ideas submitted by the public is unacceptable and again highlights the fact that this project is being rushed unnecessarily.”
“In Parliament I have asked that the Minister for Planning, who will ultimately sign the project approvals, to assure the public that the North East Link panel hearings will be fair and transparent and that the “lawyering up” by the project managers won’t hijack the process and disadvantage the public,” he said.