‘Red flags’ hang over WA’s controversial market-led proposal process
“Another red flag is that the process is really open to undue influence and the perception that deals are being made that potentially benefit only special interest groups and their business interests, rather than one. a contemplated and designed infrastructure project that is truly in the public interest.
“When projects are rushed through the approval process, we know it can lead to cost explosions. This can have detrimental effects that last for decades and can give the green light to potentially shady operators. “
“It just stinks of a system that’s going to compromise public consultation and community consultation.”
Serena Lillywhite, CEO of Transparency International Australia
The opacity of MLPs was revealed by Today in the case of developer Cedar Woods, who knew that a proposal for a high-density apartment complex in the western suburbs had progressed in the process on February 5 of this year, but was only allowed to break the news until after the state elections of March 13.
The government said the delay was due to transitional agreements in place, but sources close to the agreement who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was because the government wanted to avoid the heat. policy for a potentially controversial project ahead of the elections.
Ms Lillywhite criticized the lack of explicit public and environmental consultation requirements in the policy and said only those who assess the proposals had the full picture.
“It just stinks of a system that will compromise public consultation and community consultation,” she said.
But a finance ministry spokeswoman said the policy does not replace applicable environmental assessment and planning processes or other regulatory requirements.
“This includes all the public consultation requirements,” she said.
A spokeswoman for Ms Saffioti defended the policy and said it was an innovative way for business and government to work together to create jobs and boost the economy.
“MLPs allow the government to harness good ideas, private sector investment and entrepreneurship to develop projects that benefit Western Australians,” she said.
“MLP policy provides a single clear, consistent and transparent process for parties seeking to approach government with proposals.
“These will provide opportunities to deliver real value and innovation to the government and community of Western Australia. “
All states have market-driven versions of proposal policies. While the majority of proposals wither and die, some have resulted in some of the biggest infrastructure projects in Australian history.
Victoria has awarded four contracts resulting from market-led proposals since 2015, including the $ 4 billion West Gate Tunnel project.
New South Wales has finalized six unsolicited proposals, including Crown’s beleaguered Barangaroo Hotel and Casino.
The Crown example was one Ms Lillywhite pointed to as the worst-case scenario of an unsolicited offer leading to poor results for the entire community.
What are market-based proposals?
- MLPs were born under the moniker of the Barnett government’s “Unsolicited Bid Guideline” in January 2016, with a focus on buying or leasing Crown land for development. The most famous proposal put forward as part of this process was the failed bid to build a global shopping center in Northbridge.
- In 2019, the McGowan government expanded the policy to include any idea under the sun that will be managed by the Department of Finance.
- Proposals are evaluated by a steering committee made up of the heads of several ministries who, in most cases, make recommendations to Cabinet as to whether they warrant exclusive negotiating rights with the government.
- Initially, a proposal had to go through four stages before obtaining exclusive trading rights, but policy changes in March 2020 reduced that number to three.
- A ‘first come advantage’ was also introduced, which means that if the promoter demonstrated a good idea but not at an ‘exclusive negotiation’ level, he would gain an advantage in any open tendering process if the government was pursuing the idea.
- In August 2020, the WA government introduced “Problem and Opportunity Statements”, in which the government calls for private solutions to public problems.
In one Four corners In May, former chairman of NSW’s own Liquor and Gaming Authority Chris Sidoti criticized the process for not including a judicial review over whether Sydney needed a second casino and slammed the government for not having engaged in an open tendering process.
In WA, the state government received 58 market-based proposals. Twenty-eight were refused while seven reached the second stage, two reached the third stage.
A pilot program to manufacture hand sanitizer dispensers for high-traffic public places by Henderson-based plastics manufacturer Matrix Composites is the only project to be completed.
Developer Hesperia has been the policy’s most prolific user so far with three proposals advancing beyond Stage One, including a Fremantle film studio featured through its Home Fire subsidiary Creative Industries.
He is also behind a proposal to design an odor scrubber for the Subiaco waste treatment plant, which would open up opportunities to develop land in and around the nearby Graylands Hospital for the residential development.
Ms Lillywhite said MLPs could be improved with stricter transparency guidelines, but ultimately they were not needed for a government with a clear vision.
“You hope there is still room for innovation and smart design, through a normal open tendering process,” she said.
“You hope a state government has a comprehensive plan and an infrastructure pipeline based on really thoughtful views for the future. “
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and ideas of the day. register here.