'I won't be intimidated': Perrett slams Rattler again
GYMPIE MP Tony Perrett late yesterday launched an extraordinary attack against Mayor Mick Curran, who last week rebuked him for calling for an audit into the Rattler blowouts.
Mr Perrett said he would not "be intimidated in expressing my concerns when I see people's hard-earned money being thrown into a bottomless pit with no accountability".
However Cr Curran has defended the project, saying many of the Gympie MP's statements were "inaccurate or simply embellished" and that proper processes had been applied to the project.
In response to last week's comments by Cr Curran, Mr Perrett said he was "disappointed that the Mayor is offended with calls for an audit and probity checks on the spending of Queensland taxpayers' funds".
He said the Mayor's taking offence was out of touch with the obligations of good governance and the care which should be operated under.
"Taxpayers' and ratepayers' dollars are not free money," Mr Perrett said.
"This is about rigorous oversight, making sure that the correct processes are met, and that any money spent is transparent and accountable.
"While I welcome the Gympie Regional Council's commission of a 'comprehensive legal review of the specifications and an in-depth independent review of the project management' it is not an audit."
He said that supporting the Mary Valley Rattler's revitalisation did not mean he had to turn a blind eye "when it is clear to everyone that something is seriously wrong".
Mr Perrett said his support for the project in 2014 was when it was supposed to be funded by the State Government at a cost of $7.25million.
"Like so many across the region we welcomed the commitment," the MP said.
"At that time there was no suggestion that costs would eventually blow out to almost $20million and that ratepayers would be slugged with a levy.
"I became increasingly concerned two years ago when I learnt that despite the Government preparing the business case it had to be 'reworked'.
"Shortly afterwards the GRC imposed a compulsory $65 rates levy before it had even secured any additional funding from the State Government.
"It was reported to me that councillors were not even shown the business case when they committed to the levy.
"Even after the State Government helped prepare a new business case funding was knocked back under the Building Our Regions program, with Government sources telling me the project did not stack up.
"Under these circumstances it is clearly irresponsible if I gave it unbridled support."
He said this was then followed by Deputy Premier Jackie Trad giving $4.7million of State money to the project, with only a three-day turnaround despite it not having a viable business case.
That commitment, he said, was supposed to be 70 per cent of the total cost, announced as $10.8million.
"It was a crass and blatant exercise in using taxpayers' dollars, with no accountability, to manufacture a ribbon cutting exercise scheduled for November last year.
"Since then we have seen this project blow out twice more to $17.5million.
"There is the additional $1.1-million loan from the GRC to the Rattler Railway Company which will have to be paid back while meeting current operational and maintenance costs.
"The completion dates have also been pushed out from November to Easter, and now June.
"Instead of hiding behind half-truths Queenslanders have a right to know whether the commitment of their tax dollars meets the requirements under the W4Q (Works for Queensland).
"Wherever I go in the electorate this issue is being consistently raised with me by worried residents.
"I won't be intimidated in expressing my concerns when I see people's hard-earned money being thrown into a bottomless pit with no accountability."
Cr Curran said many of the Gympie MP's comments were off the mark.
"While I could go into great detail to comment on the many statements made by Mr Perrett and others regarding the delivery of the Mary Valley Rattler, many of which are both inaccurate or simply embellished, I also understand being in opposition must be frustrating... and a member of the opposition in this day and age has to make a lot of noise," Cr Curran said.
"I can assure the community that proper process and practices have been applied to the project.
"Of course we have concerns and they are being thoroughly reviewed as we speak and there could well be legal action taken, on behalf of our community, as a result of that review.
"In this day and age where politicians make numerous promises and then fail to deliver, Gympie Regional Council is doing the opposite.
"At the end of the day the community will have a great community and economic outcome and I sincerely thank the 'silent majority' who are awaiting the return of this iconic tourism attraction which will set our region apart."