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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 9 Hansard (17 August) . . Page.. 2818..


MR QUINLAN (continuing):

They will fit into two classifications. On the one hand, there will be the modernising of the services that the place provides and the various technical facilities that would be expected in a modern convention centre. Then there will be the decor and the presentation of the convention centre. We have reached an agreement with stakeholders, in particular the Tourism Industry Council, that they will be involved in the process of refurbishment because we are interested in ensuring that the day we re-open the refurbished convention centre, all those who are involved and will be using the place are satisfied to the extent that they can be with an upgraded facility.

Although it has been a long and tortuous road, what we have now is a deal that protects the investment of the ACT taxpayer and does not take us down a road that will mean that we will be handing a great wad of money into the hands of a hotel group, which could have and might have simply sold the place six months after we spent $30 million, as we were encouraged to do.

MR SPEAKER: Order! The minister's time has expired.

MR GENTLEMAN: I wish to ask the minister a supplementary question. Will the minister clarify how the ownership of the lease will work over a period of time?

MR QUINLAN: The lease will transfer to the territory but we will provide a management agreement with the hotel group for up to 15 years. That takes it beyond the lease it held. On the other hand, legal advice I have is that it could have exercised an option at any time, and been granted, under the prevailing conditions, a 99-year lease. The property would have then remained, effectively in perpetuity, in the ownership of the hotel group, with still an expectation amongst the community, and in particular stakeholders, that the government would spend a large amount of money refurbishing a building that it does not own. So what we have here is a better deal. It will still take a long time before the territory has discretion over what happens with the property, but I expect that there will changes and movements within the period we are talking about.

At this stage we have provided the maximum degree of protection possible to accrue to the taxpayer while still ensuring that we have what I think can best be described as a reasonably modern convention centre. The investment in that convention centre by government is consistent with the evaluation that we had conducted by ACIL Tasman on the real worth of conventions and the convention business in the territory. During the public debate all sorts of wild assertions have been made about the value of the convention business in the territory, and some of the numbers that have been promulgated publicly have clearly been arrant nonsense. We are now making an investment that is in the order of the true value of the business to the territory. I am sure there is value to other stakeholders beyond that, but we had an assessment done of the value to the taxpayers of the ACT and that limit was set at about $40 million and we determined we would not spend more than that and we do not intend to waste taxpayers' money.

Budget-operating result

MR MULCAHY: My question is to the Treasurer. In the June quarterly management report, which you tabled yesterday, the table on page 6 has the budgeted operating result


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