Minister cops ‘please explain’ after beaten to land purchase
QUESTIONS are being asked of the state's Health Minister as the news of James Cook University swooping in to broker a deal for land the Labor government was eyeing for hospital expansion, "surprised" a local MP.
Member for Cairns Michael Healy said it was "terrific" that JCU had purchased the land, but believed it had thrown a "spanner in the works" in relation to the state's plans.
On Saturday, the Cairns Post reported the purchase of the land bordered by Sheridan, Grove, Charles and Digger streets had been achieved through federal funding, which included $10m for the dirt and $50m towards stage one.
And while the state government had pledged $15m for land acquisition and $1.5m for a preliminary business case, Mr Healy said he was still waiting for answers.
Previously Health Minister Yvette D'Ath had sidestepped questions on the issue, but Mr Healy made a stern recommendation to his colleague.
"If I was the Minister, I would be asking somebody to give me a complete brief on how this has happened," he said.
Ms D'Ath did not respond to questions asked by the Cairns Post in relation to what had happened to the state's negotiations or its business case, but in a statement she said the Palaszczuk government was continuing its negotiations with JCU and working with the local hospital to create a Cairns University Hospital.
"It's no secret the commonwealth government has been seeking to partner with JCU," Ms D'Ath said. "We've committed to investing $67.9m to make this transition to a university hospital a reality, further strengthening health services in the Far North."
But Mr Healy said he could not confirm any details.
"I've been asking when will the land be purchased and I've been asking what are the details in the scoping document. And I've received nothing," Mr Healy said. "Whether that has to now be reviewed because initially, the idea was the state was going to buy the land. So now we'll have to enter into a new agreement with the university because they're the land owner. We've told them we need 10,500sq m to build the hospital, but we don't know what their plans are now."
Head of James Cook University David Craig could not be reached to confirm the university's intentions but Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch had stated one goal would be the establishment of JCU's Education and Research Centre.
Originally published as Minister cops 'please explain' after JCU beats state to hospital land