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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (30 June) . . Page.. 1895 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

I ask that we express our serious concern that the dragway has lost a significant amount of money since its closure, that the ACT has lost $1.2m in revenue, and that the ACT Government has failed to fulfil its responsibilities under the lease arrangements to set the rents and other conditions. As a final point we ask this Government, we urge this Government, to do the decent thing by the Canberra International Dragway, to fulfil its lease obligations, to make all the determinations and to make all the other conditions that it is required to set before the Commonwealth can issue a 10-year lease.

The Territory has responsibility for this lease, not the Commonwealth, and the Territory must make the determinations before the lease can be issued. That is the issue here. That is what this Government has failed to do. As I have just highlighted, there is hypocrisy on the Government's part in its handling of this issue. I would like to ask this Government to do the decent thing, to set the determinations and allow the dragway to get on with its business. I commend the motion to the Assembly.

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (10.05): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, it is disappointing that at this late hour we are debating this motion because the dragway is very important to the people of the ACT. The Government has no qualms about paragraph (1), paragraph (2) or, indeed, the first half of paragraph (3). Notice of this motion having been given on 23 March, clearly we could have discussed it on 21 April or 5 May or 23 June. We are now forced to discuss this late in the evening of a long day, but, more importantly, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, after this matter has been put to the courts.

On 11 June the club announced through a press release that it would pursue legal action against the Commonwealth and the Territory governments and it filed an application with the ACT Supreme Court seeking declaratory relief against both the Territory and the Commonwealth. I have to say that I feel somewhat limited in what I can say here this evening. If this is such an important issue, as Mr Corbell outlines, I really wonder why we did not discuss it much earlier.

To get to the heart of it, the question is: what can I do? What Mr Corbell is urging me to do may be illegal. He is asking me to make declarations or decisions that are outside my control and outside the control of my portfolio. It is curious that throughout all of this Mr Corbell really ignores the heart of it, and that is the fact that it is Commonwealth owned land and it is managed by the Commonwealth. How do we know this? Because, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, they owned up to it. On 25 March a letter was written to the editor of the Canberra Times and it was made quite public. I think it was published the next day, the 26th. I would like to read the letter into the record because it really is quite important. It says:


Canberra Times

Fyshwick ACT 2609

I refer to a number of recent articles in the Canberra Times concerning the Canberra International Dragway.

The dragway is located on Commonwealth-owned land which is managed by the Department of Defence.

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