The Department of Transport (DoT) did not respond within the required timeframe to an Opposition Freedom of Information request seeking the departmental advice referred to by the Minister for Transport Infrastructure, Jacinta Allan on ABC radio on 5 October 2020, where she said:
(Minister Allan) “… and the allegations around the Uighur workforce. I asked some months ago for that to be examined by my department … and I was advised that there was no evidence of that.”
Question: So, you actually heard about the Uighur slave labour allegations a few months ago and you inquired about them with your department and you have been assured have you that they are wrong?
(Minister Allan) “I have been. I’ve been given that advice. There was some media reports as I said going back some months ago now … and of course I made immediate inquiries with my department and was provided assurances when it came to the project for the Victorian trains that those allegations were not correct.”
Melbourne’s High Capacity Metro Trains are being constructed by a Communist Chinese Government owned train manufacturer, the world’s largest. Allegations have been aired internationally that this train manufacturer, or elements of its supply chain, may be utilising the forced slave labour of the persecuted Chinese Muslim minority Uighur population.
The Department of Transport’s reluctance to provide to the Opposition the document/s providing these assurances to Minister Allan and its inability to do so within the legislated timeframe required by the Freedom of Information Act, is deeply troubling and a matter that will be examined by VCAT on Monday 12 April.
Either the advice exists to back up Minister Allan’s statement, in which case the department ought to have provided it within the legislated timeframe, or the advice does not exist or does not actually provide the assurances claimed by Minister Allan.
Victorians have every right to see the advice Minister Allan claims to have been provided that our HCMT project is not tainted by the use of slave labour, that the company the Andrews Labor Government has contracted to build our new trains and its suppliers are not slaves – and yet, the Department of Transport has to date refused to release that advice.
If the Andrews Labor Government has nothing to fear, it should have nothing to hide. So, why the need to go to VCAT to get the advice the Minister claims to have been provided?