Nick McKim MP | Greens Infrastructure spokesperson
Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding has repeatedly refused to detail the size of the secret ex-gratia payment exposed by the Greens in Budget Estimates Committee hearings yesterday, who it was payed to, and why the payment was not made under the Land Acquisition Act.
The government was forced to admit making the ex-gratia payment in association with stage 2 of the South Arm Highway upgrade yesterday, after the Greens raised it with Minister for State Growth Matthew Groom.
Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act makes it clear that where the Crown has authority to acquire land, the Act must be used.
Mr Hidding has repeatedly refused to confirm that the government made the ex-gratia payment under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, and has repeatedly failed to deny that the ex-gratia payment was made against advice from the Department of Treasury and Finance.
Mr Hidding has claimed that the ex-gratia payment was made because there was an injurious impact on the land owner, but repeatedly failed to explain why the payment was not made under Section 27 (e) of the Land Acquisition Act, which was created specifically to deal with injurious impacts. If the government has not used the Act to make this payment, it has broken the law.
It is very interesting that after I raised the spectre of government corruption, the Liberal Committee Chair Adam Brooks suspended me from the Committee for two hours.
Unanswered questions on this issue include:
· What was the size of the ex-gratia payment?
· Who was the ex-gratia payment made to?
· Why Section 27 of the Land Acquisition Act was not used?
· Who calculated the size of the ex-gratia payment?
· Why was advice from the Department of Treasury and Finance ignored?
At the end of the day this is taxpayers money, and the government is accountable for how it is spent. Mr Hidding’s refusal to answer reasonable questions today only increases the stink around this secret payment.