Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said Leichhardt member-elect Warren Entsch has positioned himself to take credit for something for which he has no responsibility or genuine involvement.
It has been suggested that there was a backlash against Labor in Leichhardt by voters in the Sikh Community, over the possibility that the highway upgrade could result in the destruction of the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple near Wrights Creek, situated in the electorate of Kennedy.
Mr Pitt said any commitments given by Mr Entsch that he would stop any road going through the temple were hollow.
“Ministers Albanese and Wallace made an announcement in July – more than six weeks before federal polling day – that outlined the final master plan and that confirmed the temple was safe,” Mr Pitt said.
“Letters of notification were also sent to property holders that were no longer affected, including the Queensland Sikh Association.
“It’s commendable that Mr Entsch has taken an interest in the Sikh Community and has been learning more about their beliefs and why the temple is so significant.
“However at his victory celebration and again on radio, Mr Entsch has all but claimed that the Sikh Community rallied behind him over this issue.
“You don’t make front-page news in India and attract labels like ‘Punjab hero’ unless you’ve given the impression you’ve actually done something to deserve it.”
Mr Pitt said the Sikh Community was a religious group that avoided politics and it was a shame to see them involved this way.
“At least eight members of the Community were concerned enough with a story published in The Cairns Post that they went in to set the record straight,” Mr Pitt said.
“I understand that the individual who claimed to be a spokesperson for the association was not authorised to make statements on the community’s behalf.
“The genuine leadership in the Sikh Community accepted the decision was made well before the election and acknowledged they were advised through the proper channels.
“Those members for the Sikh Community that were not aware the temple option was off the table have been led to believe that Mr Entsch was going to do something about it.
“Mr Entsch should’ve brought some calm to this situation. Instead he’s tried to use his newfound relationship with the Sikh Community for political gain.
“The decision had already been made, so of course he was able to promise that no road would go through the temple. He was happy to receive electoral support from the Sikh Community and now he’s happy to receive the kudos for an outcome he played no part in.”
Mr Pitt said before, during and after the campaign, Mr Entsch has made comparisons to St Monica’s Cathedral and the outcry that would result if a similar proposal was put forward.
“These sorts of comparisons are fine to highlight the issue as long as he also mentioned that a decision had already been made that meant this was not going to happen to the Sikh Temple,” Mr Pitt said.
“At best, Mr Entsch didn’t know the details of the master plan announcement and what it meant for our region and subsequently for the temple.
“This would be concerning given that it’s a joint federal-state road project with an estimated cost of more than $2 billion in today’s money.
”At worst, he knew the temple was no longer under threat and has been deceitful and played on the fears within the Sikh community for his political benefit.
“Either way, he’s not off to a good start if this is any indication of his approach.”
Mr Pitt said he was proud of his own strong advocacy on behalf of the Sikh Community on this issue.
“When the three options were announced in November last year, I immediately arranged a meeting with the temple committee and subsequently took a delegation from the Sikh Community to meet with Main Roads representatives,” Mr Pitt said.
“I made clear statements in The Cairns Post that I was throwing my support behind the Sikh Community and I wrote to Main Roads Minister Craig Wallace on their behalf to put their case in the strongest possible terms.
“This isn’t about who gets the accolades, it’s about getting the result. But people do expect that politicians of all colours campaign on real issues, not those that no longer exist.”
Mr Pitt said Mr Entsch’s proposals for a second corridor via East Trinity were flawed as they would do nothing to address the existing traffic needs of the southern corridor.