THE future of the Bendigo Hospital redevelopment is in chaos.
A government source yesterday said Lend Lease would not be eligible to build the new Bendigo Hospital after breaking state government industrial relations laws.
The construction company, part of one of two consortia bidding for the $630 million project, recently signed an agreement with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, against state government regulations.
The Age reported the deal meant the company would be banned from all state government work, including the hospital project, which the government source confirmed.
The future of the Lend Lease tender is uncertain, but the CFMEU deal lasts four years. It is not known if the other consortia, which includes Theiss, will be awarded the tender for the project, if the process will have to start over, or if Lend Lease will eventually be able to be considered for the project.
CFMEU national secretary Dave Noonan was quoted in The Age as saying Premier Ted Baillieu should respect the deal made with Lend Lease.
Lend Lease construction and infrastructure chief executive Mark Menhinnitt said he was confident the company could find a solution to the problems raised by the government.
He said the government would allow Lend Lease to go through a process to ensure it met all codes of compliance.
Health Minister David Davis said complying with government regulations was part of the tender process, but refused to comment on individual bids.
“I obviously will not make specific comments about a live tender process,” he said. “There are two tenderers, that’s a matter of public knowledge, there’s a formal tender process, I’ve outlined the process by which they will be assessed.
“It involves a steering committee that looks at each part of that tender. That advice will ultimately come to me and I will make a decision on that advice.”
Mr Davis said he didn’t want to prejudge the outcome. “I’m very aware of my responsibilities under this tender and will do nothing to breach those,” he said.
“I think the tender process is proceeding in the way it was intended.”
But Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards said the government had bungled the process from the start. “There are questions to be asked now about how things are going to progress with the tenders,” she said.
“If they remove Lend Lease from the tenders, they have to go back to the drawing board and start again, or alternatively have one tender and blowout costs of the hospital beyond what we have already seen.”
She said the hospital would not open in 2016 as planned.
Member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan said the government was putting ideology before patients’ needs.
“We have a situation of the government’s own making that is jeopardising the entire project,” she said.
“It’s not good enough for the Liberal National government to duck for cover and not answer questions about Bendigo’s most important project.”
The following questions should be answered to clear up confusion for the Bendigo community:
Has the consortia involving Lend Lease been recommended to the state government as the preferred bidder for the $630 million Bendigo Hospital project?
Should Lend Lease decide to honour its commitment with the CFMEU, effectively enforcing a state government ban from the hospital tender process, is the second consortia automatically declared the winner?
Or would the project be put back to tender and, if so, how long does the state government estimate that would delay the building process?
Are there concerns that the removal of Lend Lease from the bidding process would allow the second consortia to change its costings, given it no longer faced competition?
If the reports are true that the concept by the consortia involving Lend Lease was considered clearly the best, would the banning of that bid mean Bendigo must accept an inferior design?
Why is CFMEU involvement in the project of such concern to the Bendigo Hospital project?
Could this have been handled better?
Related coverage: What now for Bendigo Hospital plan?