Farrah Tomazin, November 3, 2006
Premier Steve Bracks' re-election
campaign has been rocked by allegations that a damning report on
the Government's handling of major projects was watered down by
one of his MPs for political purposes.
Mr Bracks yesterday denied that the
report on projects done in partnership with the private sector
had been censored to avoid embarrassment before the November 25
He was put on the defensive after
more than 30 pages of material - deleted from the final report
by Labor MP Christine Campbell - were leaked.
The previously unpublished pages
included damning criticism of the public-private partnership
deals, or PPPs, including excessive government secrecy, the risk
of taxpayers losing out, and "favourable" deals for private
The report was produced by the
Labor-dominated Public Accounts and Estimates Committee and
tabled in Parliament last month.
It said secrecy surrounding billions
of dollars worth of projects done in partnership with the
private sector meant Victorians had no idea whether they
provided value for money.
At the time of its tabling, The Age
revealed it was a watered-down version of an earlier draft,
after learning that contract details of major projects such as
the County Court redevelopment, the Southern Cross Station
redevelopment and the EastLink freeway had been taken out.
Details of deleted pages came to
light yesterday after they were leaked to the ABC. They said:
The Government had a history of
delivering big projects over time and over budget, and
should be wary of increasing state debt arising out of PPPs.
Independent scrutiny of
infrastructure projects done in partnership with the private
sector had been "limited".
The Melbourne County Court and
Mildura Hospital redevelopments "were not in the long-term
interests of the public" and "no further contracts of this
this type should be entered into".
The Government had been paying a
high premium to transfer project risks to the private
sector, but "experience has shown large components of this
risk have reverted back to the Government."
A deal allowing Transurban early
repayment of concession notes with the face value of $2.8
billion for $614 million was "very favourable to the
The Public Accounts and Estimates
Committee comprises nine MPs from the ALP, Liberal Party and the
Sources close to the committee have
suggested the report was softened to avoid embarrassing Mr
Bracks as he seeks a third term in office. "I have no doubt
sections of the report had been taken out because it was
critical of the what the Government had done with PPPs," one
source told The Age yesterday.
But Mr Bracks and Ms Campbell denied
suggestions of a political cover-up. "I reject that suggestion
totally and the chair of the Public Accounts and Estimates
Committee has said that is not the case," Mr Bracks said.
Ms Campbell, a former minister, said
it was longstanding practice for the committee chairs to edit
reports without showing them to all committee members. Asked why
she deleted the pages, she said: "Any draft that I get has to be
corrected, and any parliamentary committee has to have the chair
satisfied that the report is robust and is as reflective as
possible of the evidence received."
Liberal leader Ted Baillieu last
night vowed to reform parliamentary rules so that the committee
chair and deputy chair - who come from different parties - get
access to drafts of reports.
Shadow treasurer Robert Clark, a
member of the committee, said it was unfortunate he and other
members did not see the full draft. But he stood by the final
report, which was supported unanimously by committee members.
The Bracks Government has entered
into about 16 public-private partnerships since winning office
in 1999, including EastLink, Southern Cross Station and the
Melbourne Convention Centre redevelopment.
Amid concerns about the PPP process,
Treasurer John Brumby this week bowed to internal Labor pressure
and promised that a future government would release full
"value-for-money statements" and "public interest statements"
within three months of a PPP deal being closed.