Barnett defends Quay land sale

Barnett defends land sale
Chevron Australia boss Roy Krzywosinski (centre) has a laugh with Premier Colin Barnett and Minister John Day (left) after signing a commercial land deal at Elizabeth Quay last week. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian.

Colin Barnett has admitted raising the prospect of Chevron buying land from the Government at Elizabeth Quay during discussions about the resource giant’s application to expand its footprint at Barrow Island.

Chevron last week committed $64 million for the first commercial lot at Elizabeth Quay which, at $9200/sqm, set a record for CBD land and was higher than the amount the Government had budgeted to receive from the sale.

Today, the Government introduced changes allowing the Gorgon joint venture, which Chevron leads, to expand the land it can use at the A-Class nature reserve by 10 per cent without any environmental offsets.

In Parliament this morning, shadow state development minister Bill Johnston said it was “improper” for Mr Barnett to negotiate the two issues with Chevron at the same meeting.

Mr Johnson was forced to withdraw the remark under rules stipulating that MPs cannot accuse others of improper motives without moving a motion to that effect, but continued to press the issue.

He asked: “What was the link that the Government created between this 34ha of land and Elizabeth Quay?”

In March, Chevron renewed a lease at the QV1 building to secure its tenancy there until 2023.

Mr Johnston said it needed to be explained why Chevron had now decided to start construction of its new premises at Elizabeth Quay in late 2016.

“Traditionally large corporates don’t tie their money up in property assets,” he said.

“BHP doesn’t own Brookfield Tower, it’s owned by Brookfield. If Chevron took a lease at Elizabeth Quay you could understand that, but the fact they have purchased the land needs to be explained by the Government.

“There has been plenty of scuttlebutt that the Premier has been putting pressure on Chevron to buy land at Elizabeth Quay. We want to know did that pressure include discussions about the 34ha on Barrow Island. Was that part of the deal?”

Mr Barnett confirmed through interjection that the two matters were discussed at the same meeting, with the Elizabeth Quay land raised by him, but were “not inter-related”.

“We can walk and chew gum at the same time," he said.

Planning Minister John Day said the record amount paid for the Elizabeth Quay land was a good outcome for the State but also for Chevron.

“It is higher than any amount that’s been paid for land in the CBD previously but given the quality of the development around the precinct, the public investment that is being made ... I think it is a good outcome for Chevron and for the State,” he said.

Mr Day said the negotiations for the sale had been handled by the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority on behalf of Government with the utmost integrity and had not been influenced by the Gorgon project.