Burke government deal benefits Burswood
Burke government deal benefits Burswood

The 1980s agreement between the Burke government and Dallas Dempster to build the Burswood casino means the usual public planning and development processes will not apply to Crown Limited's $568 million hotel expansion.

Premier Colin Barnett announced last week the Government would sell 5.8ha of Burswood golf course to Crown for $60 million so it can build a 500-room, six-star hotel with retail, dining and gambling facilities. The Premier said the land was valued at $95 million but he has refused to release the valuation report.

Last week, Mr Barnett told _The West Australian _he would not release the valuation because of Cabinet confidentiality.

Yesterday, he also refused in question time to table the valuation because it formed part of a "commercial transaction".

Mr Barnett says the discount is appropriate because the site is contaminated and has to be remediated.

The Government's Crown Land Administration and Policy Manual, which sets out policies for selling crown land, says "public competition is the preferred method of selling crown land" and "sales by private treaty are not the usual way crown land is sold".

The land, on the southern edge of the golf course, is not subject to the usual rezoning and public comment practices in the State's planning system and is exempt from the Metropolitan Region Scheme. The hotel development will also not be assessed by any of the usual State or local government planning authorities but by Racing and Gaming Minister Terry Waldron.

This is because provisions in a 1984 agreement between the Burke government and Mr Dempster's casino consortium were used to help fast-track the casino before the 1987 America's Cup regatta. The agreement subsequently became law in the Casino (Burswood Island) Agreement Act 1985, legislation the then-Liberal Opposition vehemently opposed.

It was also probed by the WA Inc Royal Commission, which highlighted large donations from Mr Dempster to the Labor Party and a $2 million "success fee" to Rothwells chairman Laurie Connell in relation to the casino bid.

In 2003 when he was Opposition Leader, Mr Barnett said of the deal: "The casino was not established in a proper way in any sense. It was another deal of the Labor government during the early days of what became known as WA Inc."

Yesterday, Mr Barnett said in Parliament that Crown had a "right" and "entitlement" to acquire up to 10ha under the Act.

A clause says the State Government can, on the Gaming Minister's recommendation, grant or lease to Burswood up to 10ha of Burswood Park reserve.

Outside Parliament, Mr Barnett, a persistent critic of WA Inc era dealings, defended the Government's process surrounding the Burswood expansion, which was announced without the knowledge of Victoria Park Town Council or the Burswood Park Board.

"Before agreeing to sell the 5.8 ha of land, there was consultation with a number of key ministers and their respective departments to ensure that the sale was appropriate and in the best interests of the State," he said.

"Any proposed development must be approved by the Minister for Racing and Gaming and a building licence issued by the relevant local authority.

"I am aware that it is the practice of the Minister for Racing and Gaming to consult with relevant authorities, including the Department of Planning, prior to issuing a development approval and I am sure that this process will be observed in relation to the new hotel.

"Further, given the size and scope of this development, the minister has already indicated he will seek Cabinet support before issuing any approval. On this basis, I am completely comfortable with the processes and look forward to the development delivering significant benefits to the State."

The West Australian

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