Published: 20 August 2019

Legislative Council Wednesday 14 August, 2019

Ms  FORREST (Murchison ) - Mr President, I raise a complaint about the way some constituents of mine have been dealt with by the Department of State Growth.  I do not do this normally but this has been going on for months.  I am seriously concerned about the mental health and wellbeing of my constituents as a result of the way they are being stuffed around.

In August 2018, my constituents, who own a property leased to State Growth, were aware that the term of their lease was approaching in a year's time.  Since then, they have gone through an exhaustive process and responded to an expression of interest.  State Growth decided to go out for expression of interest to look at the suitability of other properties or whether to allow this property to continue, which is entirely appropriate - although sometimes you wonder why they would do that when they had an eminently suitable property, but maybe there are some issues with the property.

That is not the issue that was at odds here.  This process started in August 2018 where the owner of the property, my constituent, was proactive in looking at what would happen with the ongoing leasing arrangements.  Since then, they have done all the right things according the expression of interest being lodged.  I have tried to follow this and assist my constituent to understand what is going on.  There have been numerous communications between this couple and State Growth trying to determine what it was they needed to do and what the time frames were to meet the requirements of the expression of interest.

During that period the expression of interest changed.  To my knowledge, there has been no opportunity to resubmit since that change.  The conspiracy theorists would say it was changed to meet potentially another organisation that had put in an expression of interest.  I cannot make any headway with trying to find out what is going on, except it was brought to my attention that another building in this same town was being refurbished on the inside with quite extensive works.  My office made an enquiry with the relevant council to ask it whether significant work was going on in this property.  You would expect that if it were being done to over a value of a certain level, it would require a building permit, particularly when you are demolishing walls and significantly refashioning the inside of a big building.

We were told by the general manager of that council that as far as they were aware, no work was going on inside the building, despite the fact that when you look in the window you can see it all going on.  It was interesting and not far from council's offices.  There were all these skip bins on site with stuff in them, but the council was not aware of any work going on and there had been no building permit application.  This continues, with lots of toing and froing.

Under the terms of the lease, they require notification of whether it is to be extended or will cease within three months.  This is, as I understand, the process in the lease.  Three months and a notification has to be made.  That three months has passed.  My constituents have had no response in terms of whether the lease is going to continue or not.

I wrote to the then minister for infrastructure, Mr Rockliff.  We had the standard - 'We received your letter, thanks, we will respond back to you'.  Nothing happened beyond that.  Then there was a change of portfolios, so my office sent all the same information to Mr Ferguson's office.  We have since had a meeting arranged to view the property currently being leased at the end of this month.  Part of that was because of my availability.  Being down here, I could not meet sooner than that.

My constituents contact my office almost every day.  They are stressed beyond belief.  I am very concerned about them.  They have tried to do the right thing and have sought responses from State Growth repeatedly.  A meeting has now been arranged with State Growth with them.  We are assured State Growth has not made a decision.  This process started last year.  There have been changes in the office, all that sort of stuff.  I do not understand how someone does not take up a job someone may have moved from. 

Anyway, then the icing on the cake - and the reason I decided I have had enough and need to raise this here - is that this week at a meeting in this particular town, a friend of my constituent was informed that a squeaky-clean building application had been approved for the other building we were told no building permit had been issued for.

I do not know what is going on.  My constituents now see all sorts of conspiracies and I can absolutely understand why they do.  All it takes is communication.  I will be meeting onsite, hopefully, it is still to be confirmed, but I am committed later this month.  My constituent is finding it impossible to meet because of the state of his mental health and will probably send his wife or someone else, such is the point it has got to.

This is enough.  When did we lose the ability to communicate?  I am complaining bitterly about the way this situation has been dealt with by the Department of State Growth.  I hope through raising it publicly like this it may be able to focus its attention and give some clear indication as to what is going on.  These constituents were expecting to have a decision one way or the other when that three months ticked over.  They were hoping for it earlier.  I was hoping they might get notification earlier one way or the other.  This is their livelihood.  This is what they rely on to live.  It is unacceptable.

Mrs Hiscutt - While the member is on her feet, is this the same situation in your questions without notice recently?

Ms FORREST - I have had a few, probably.

Mrs Hiscutt - I assure the member I will make sure the department gets a copy of this Hansard.

Ms FORREST - Yes.  I would appreciate communication with the department at the earliest convenience so I can inform my constituents when they ring again tomorrow about what is going on.

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