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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 2 Hansard (3 March) . . Page.. 679..


MR SMYTH (continuing):

Totalcare's problems with superannuation that extend back 10 or 11 years, as we were told by the briefing team, which would take them back to the middle years of the Follett government.

We had very little about the quarry. We were told that the answers to questions we asked were confidential or that things would have to be checked and that, if we wanted to follow them up, the appropriate place to do so was in the chamber. Well, here we are in the chamber. The question is: what is there to hide? A public asset has been sold and I think that the public deserve and, because of the approaches I have had, clearly require information and answers much more than we have had.

The Auditor-General has provided some information-you have to commend the auditor for that-that would not otherwise have been available to the Assembly and the community. He has constructed accounts to provide information to the Assembly that gives an order of magnitude of the sale price. That price would appear to have been incredibly low.

It depends on how you interpret the words used on page 235 of the Auditor-General's report 7 of 2002, concerning financial audits with years ending to 30 June 2002, but revenue for the quarry joint venture that year is listed as $4,000 for interest and $268,000 for "other". When you look at the notes you see that "other"consists of proceeds from the sale of the Williamsdale Quarry, an insurance claim and compensation. I certainly hope that we did not sell the quarry for less than $268,000, but who would know?

Another thing that we were told was the reason that the government cannot tell us for what it was sold is that there was a commercial-in-confidence clause. I was told that, if I wanted, I could ring Pioneer and see whether they would tell me what it was sold for, so I did. I rang the area manager and he put me onto the greater area manager in Sydney. That gentleman made some inquiries on my behalf and came back and said that, unfortunately, Pioneer was not willing to release the detail because there were five or six signatories to the contract and they all had to agree on whether the commercial-in-confidence clause could be waived and the price made available. I asked him who were the five or six signatories and he was unable to tell me. So you get this cloak being thrown further and further. You have to remember that this is the government that said that it would not hide behind the cloak of confidentiality.

We also asked questions about the process. There was no public tender, but there was an appropriate process and officers undertook to give further detail, which I am yet to receive. You have to question the lack of release of detail after the event. You can understand that in any process leading up to the event it might be said that we could not be told quite now, but not once it has been resolved. I think that with most tenders the result has to go onto the web as part of amendments to the FMA, but we seem to be hiding behind the cloak of commercial-in-confidence, something on which the former opposition used to beat us soundly around the ears on many occasions.

I think that there are occasions when commercial-in-confidence can be applied, but I think that it should be done so sparingly-perhaps with a leasing rate or a current value that is still at the core of your business. But the government only had one quarry and it could only be sold once because it would not then be the government's and it does not


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