Rail questions off limits

06/06/2018 Posted by admin

Commercially sensitive matters relating to the rail deal at the budget estimates hearings may be heard behind closed doors. Picture: PHILLIP BIGGSTHE State Government may consider closing parts of this year’s budget estimates hearings to the public, if commercially sensitive matters about the rail deal with Pacific National are raised. Talks between the Government and Pacific National’s parent company, Asciano, continue today. Infrastructure Minister Graeme Sturges is due to front budget estimates hearings on Tuesday and Thursday next week. And while he said the Government was committed to transparency, he left the door open for holding hearings around the Pacific National issue behind closed doors and closed off to the public. “The Government is committed to transparency, the Government is committed to openness,” Mr Sturges said yesterday. “My intention is the hearings will go ahead open to the public and be fully transparent. “But if there is a hidden agenda, if there is a question that may in fact compromise commercial sensitivities, we will need to get advice at that time.” Both the Liberals and the Greens have been pressing the State Government on what contingency plans were in place, should Pacific National press ahead with its plan to abandon the profitable Melba Line at the end of the month, using it as a trigger to pull out of Tasmania altogether. But the Government wouldn’t comment on what options were available, both Premier David Bartlett and Mr Sturges saying they wouldn’t telegraph their punches ahead of the crisis meeting with Asciano management this week. Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim said the Government should not look to hide behind commercial in confidence at next week’s hearings. “If Mr Sturges is going to claim that any information is commercial in confidence, he should be prepared to mount an argument to back that up,” he said. “If he can’t convince the committee of his argument, then the hearing must remain open.” If the budget estimates hearings are closed to the public, it’s believed that it would be first time in at least a decade that hearings were closed to the public.
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