The department responsible for infrastructure, planning and urban development wasn’t aware of the controversial Gillman land deal until its own minister announced the sale papers had been signed, InDaily can reveal.
The revelation appears to back concerns raised by the Opposition over whether the proposal to sell 400 ha of Government-owned land at Gillman to a developer went through the standard processes of cabinet scrutiny.
Infrastructure and Urban Development Minister Tom Koutsantonis has previously said government agencies were consulted on the decision to sell the land and appropriate cabinet processes were followed.
A spokesperson for the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure told InDaily the department didn’t need to be consulted on every issue and “as such we weren’t consulted on it, and therefore it’s a matter for Renewal SA”.
The land deal would appear to have implications for infrastructure and planning, as it involves the long-term development of a hub for the mining industry.
However, Koutsantonis told InDaily today he had “engaged” with the departments of Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy, and Treasury and Finance.
“The ACP offer was ultimately a decision of cabinet,” he said.
“We stand by our decision, which has the potential to create 6000-12,000 jobs, expand our oil and gas industries and bring investment – interstate and overseas – into South Australia.
Shadow Treasurer Iain Evans said the news added weight to concerns the sale had been rushed through without proper scrutiny and due diligence.
InDaily has in the past revealed the board of the agency in charge of the sale had substantial concerns about the deal.
The deal with consortium Adelaide Capital Partners (ACP) was eventually pushed through the board despite two members resigning and only a few days after the board had drawn up advice urging the government not to sell without first going to tender.
“That just adds weight to the argument that this decision was rushed, that this decision went through poor process,” Evans said.
“Why wouldn’t cabinet want to know what the Department of Infrastructure thought about the infrastructure needs for a block of land that’s over 400 ha in size?”
Koutsantonis tabled Renewal SA’s advice – which the Government claims recommended selling the land – in Cabinet. Normal practice, Evans claimed, would be for that advice to go out to all relevant agencies 10 days before cabinet considered it to give the agencies time to give feedback for cabinet to consider.
“The process is important so that cabinet are fully aware how each decision they’re about to make will impact on each section of the community via their government agency,” Evans said.
The decision of Renewal SA relied on by the Government, has this note: “That advice pertaining to whether the ACP proposal meets with the Government’s strategic economic development objectives and gives Government sufficient confidence to proceed with accepting the offer on a preferred basis will be provided by other Government agencies, and ultimately this will be a policy decision of Cabinet.”
It’s now clear that advice did not come from the relevant minister’s department.
Evans said his party had made no decision on whether to call an inquiry into the matter, but said he had asked the Auditor-General to investigate.
Meanwhile Adelaide City Council seems set to look again at its compensation claim for a 150 ha portion of the site which was compulsorily acquired by the State Government in 2009.
The council was given $1.52 million in compensation by the Government when the Dean Rifle Range was acquired, but it had been seeking almost $30 million in the Supreme Court as it argued this was true value of the land.
The rifle range is part of the land in the ACP deal.
Councillor Sandy Wilkinson told InDaily the sale price was much higher than the price the council was offered when the land was acquired.
“The ratepayers of the City of Adelaide had been ripped off,” he said.
“They stand to make a fortune out of it and the ratepayers of the City of Adelaide miss out big time.
“We’re asking our lawyers and valuers and people that are working for council are working at reviewing and getting as much as we can out of this deal.
“With the information that’s come to the fore the potential value of the land is much more.”
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