Minister fails to answer question on hospital paid parking
THE NSW Health Minister and Tweed MP are on the hot seat over paid parking at the new Tweed Valley Hospital, after both failed to rule out breaking a key election promise.
In a fiery and at times comical display in parliament on Thursday, Health Minister Brad Hazzard failed to answer whether parking would be free at the $582 million Tweed Valley Hospital.
This is despite Geoff Provest declaring in the lead up to March's state election there would be no charge once the hospital is complete in 2023.
Mr Provest said last week he was pushing for free-parking, but said all options were on the table.
Labor's Janelle Saffin, member of the neighbouring seat of Lismore, asked Mr Hazzard in parliament whether or not there would be paid parking at the hospital.
The answer from Mr Hazzard was underwhelming at best for Tweed residents, with the minister spending five minutes at the podium avoiding the question.
Mr Hazzard instead criticised Labor for its opposition to the site in the lead up to the election, claiming they wanted to put it at a different site to appease their "developer mate".
"I'm fascinated that Labor has an interest in the Tweed Hospital because they certainly didn't have any interest during the election," Mr Hazzard said in parliament.
This was in reference to Labor's proposal to build the hospital at Kings Forest, which is being developed by Gold Coast billionaire Bob Ell.
When asked by the Tweed Daily News following parliament, Tweed MP Geoff Provest said he was not disappointed by the minister's performance and said paid-parking was not the most important issue.
"I am still committed to my promise, but I am also mindful of working within a budget," Mr Provest said.
"My major focus is on getting the shovels ready and getting the hospital built.
"I think it is just a distraction from Labor.
"They are trying to bring up every little fear to create fear in the community - it is just unacceptable."
The NSW Opposition Leader, Jodi McKay has since lambasted the Health Minister over his answer in parliament.
Ms McKay, who was in Tweed Heads last week, said suspicions over the promise would be rising among residents after Thursday.
"If paid parking is introduced at Tweed Hospital, this will be an unforgivable breach of people's trust," she said.
"Janelle Saffin asked a very simple question - it should have been a straight yes or no.
"Instead the Liberal Minister danced around it for five minutes - and that's when your suspicions go up.
"The Nationals put that promise on the election material in March - how can they be crab-walking away from it now?
"Clearly they were just saying anything at the time to get elected again."
Labor MP Janelle Saffin said a break of the Liberal-National's promise on the new hospital would have effects across the wider region.
"Parking fees at Tweed Hospital will put more pressure on people who need to access health services," Ms Saffin said.
"It will be harder for families to visit their sick loved ones.
"This is just so mean-spirited and out of touch.
""There will be many people in the Lismore electorate affected by this and I express concern for them as well."