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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 5 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1346 ..

Impulse Airlines

MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, my question to the Chief Minister and Treasurer follows on from the question which my colleague asked of the minister for business. In April last year the ACT government and Impulse entered into an agreement, as we have just heard, to develop a regional airline industry in the ACT in return for $10 million of government incentives. In announcing the deal the government claimed the development of the airline's operations base would create 400 direct jobs and hundreds indirectly. Amongst a raft of other benefits were construction works, which alone were worth $21 million. As we have also heard, regrettably in the minds of most of us, yesterday Impulse Airlines announced a joint venture with Qantas, a move that has been nationally recognised and regarded as a takeover.

Also yesterday, Mr Speaker, the Chief Minister brought down a budget that relies on a growth rate of 4.25 per cent this year and 4.6 per cent in the next, a growth rate that dramatically exceeds the 1.3 per cent prediction by Access Economics for the ACT this year. At a budget breakfast this morning the Chief Minister conceded that the budget's projected surplus is dependent on the optimistic growth forecast and he said that if the rate is not achieved he would inevitably have to put back expenditure. Can the Chief Minister say what impact the failure of Impulse to deliver what it promised-a call centre, its heavy engineering maintenance facility, a training centre and its operations headquarters-would have on the capacity to achieve a 4.6 per cent growth rate.

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, first of all, this is a hypothetical question. Impulse has not failed to deliver on the terms of its contract with the ACT government. As Mr Smyth has just made clear, Impulse's obligation was to deliver a number of benefits to the ACT community over a period of time and they would receive a benefit from the ACT government for each of the achievements, the milestones, that they notched up in delivering those benefits. No benefit, no conversion of the loan into a grant.

So the assertion, almost, in this question that there was a failure to deliver by Impulse is an assertion not based on any fact. As Mr Smyth pointed out, a claim from Impulse has already been put to the ACT government that three of the milestones have in fact been achieved, as specified in the contract. An indication came from Impulse yesterday by way of media statement that it was the intention of Impulse, or Impulse/Qantas, to deliver on other commitments made to the ACT government in that contract. I do not know whether that is the case or not; I am relying on the media release. The government's intention is to find out as soon as possible what exactly the position is with respect to this. We will hold urgent meetings with Impulse and Qantas to discover what exactly is the state of affairs.

I reserve comment on this merger or takeover, whatever it is, until I have more information. But I will say that I think it is wrong to assert that this deal has fallen through in the ACT. It certainly has already been at least partially delivered on-at least that is the claim that Impulse have made to the government, which we are currently in the process of verifying.

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