Kew Cottages Coalition Media Release 1st April 2004

Is the Brack's Government's Kew Cottages Tender an April Fool's Day joke or a serious miscarriage of justice ?

The Brack's Government's call for companies to express their interest in redeveloping Kew Cottages is turning into a farce, the President of Kew Cottages Coalition, Brian Walsh, claimed today.

"April 1st is the closing date for the tenders", said Mr Walsh, "and the rules of the Kew Cottages game still appear to be changing almost daily."

Within the last three weeks the Government has changed or corrected the size of ground, the name of the game, the types of players permitted to play, and of course, the position of the goal posts.

"Serious questions need to be asked about the probity of the tender process", Mr Walsh said, "and in the meantime a moratorium must be imposed on any development at Kew Cottages."

"Mr. Brack's was the first to complain when the Federal Government appeared to change the tender process on Point Nepean to favour some players, and disadvantage others. It is the height of hypocrisy to close the Kew Cottages KRS tender today without publicly explaining the basis for the latest changes, and why no extension of time to respond has been granted to interested parties ?"

Announcing the tender on March 12th Minister for Community Services, Sherryl Garbutt said, "The successful company must develop the 127-hectare site adhering to strict planning requirements."

The Age on 13th March carried a Human Services (DHS) advertisement E2982 stating that "Kew Residential Services Redevelopment - Site Developer" Closes 01/04/2004 Email enquiries only". It was the only one of the six Government tenders thus advertised that did not have a contact person and telephone number

Two days later on 15th March the Minister appears to have realised the site was in fact a lot smaller than she had originally thought - it was only 27 hectares, and not the "127-hectares" refered to in her original release. The online copy of her original release appears to have been subsequently changed accordingly to correct the Minister's mistake.

Four days later, on 19th March the Government suddenly decided to also change the wording of its advertisement posted on the tenders.vic website. On 13th March the advert had called for expressions of interest only from potential outright purchasers of the Kew Cottages KRS site. On the 19th the Government announced they were also "prepared to entertain" a range of new options including inter alia "An unincorporated joint venture between the State and the developer".

Not until five(5) days later, on 24th March, did DHS formally advise interested parties of the change to the advertisement. At which time DHS stated, "The minor changes to the ad reflect that an outright purchase of the site is only one option that would be considered by Government. Other options are now more clearly identified.. The closing date for Expressions of Interest remains as 2.00pm on Thursday 1st April 2004."

Less clearly identified were issues such as the breakdown of the Government's much heralded community consultation process, the motion of no confidence in the Minister for Community Services passed by the Kew Cottages Parents Association, the opposition of Boroondara Council, and any matters related to current use of the site.

Asked specifically whether KRS have a website that can be accessed in order to obtain background information on KRS such as current use, DHS replied in Transmital 1on 24th March "No external website exists.."

However, seven days later in Transmittal 2 on 31st March DHS was forced to publish a correction, admitting that,"there are several websites that do refer to the KRS... "

However, when asked directly about current use eg: "Does DHS intend to remove some intellectually disabled residents from their current homes on the site without their consent ?" no correction was published. Instead DHS noted that, "People have identified up to three preferences and the DHS is placing people according to their needs and attempting to meet their preferences." (31/3)

So at face value on April 1st, Mr. Walsh said, it would appear the Brack's Government is now not only prepared to:

Change the terms of its tender without extending the closing date;and

Change the nature and form of the tender in a manner that may reasonably be expected to disadvantage one or more potential developers; but also

Move some of the State's most disadvantaged residents out of their existing homes at Kew Cottages against their will; and

Try and disguise that fact from potential developers, although the Kew Cottages Parents Association has withdrawn from the Government consultation process in disgust, and some residents have made Kew Cottages their home for nearly 70 years.

Contacts: See attached.