Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2465 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
Minister, yesterday your disclosure that the cheque offered for payment of the deposit was in fact dishonoured by the bank surely represents a failure as defined. There is simply no provision for any variation of the conditions.
Minister, did you mislead the Assembly yesterday when you maintained that the Gungahlin Development Authority, for which you have ministerial responsibility, was acting lawfully?
MR CORBELL: No, I didn't. The reason I didn't is that the Gungahlin Development Authority has received advice from the Government Solicitor's Office that the authority can vary the terms of the contract. It has chosen to do so in this case to permit the successful bidder to pay the deposit by the close of business this week.
MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Smyth?
MR SMYTH: Certainly, Mr Speaker. Minister, under what provisions, then, of the terms and conditions drawn up and circulated by the GDA have the deposit and payment terms been varied?
MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, I'm not privy to the detail of the contractual issues, but it is quite clear from the advice provided by the Government Solicitor that the authority is within its rights to choose to vary the contract.
The reason the contract has been varied is that the successful bidder was pre-qualified and met the same criteria as all the other bidders at the auction. Subsequent to the auction, he presented a cheque, which was dishonoured. The reason that occurred, I am advised, is that one of his business partners pulled out. Given those circumstances, the authority has given the successful bidder until close of business on Friday to pay the balance of the deposit. If that is not done, the deposit will obviously be forfeited and will come to the territory, and the land will be re-auctioned.
MR HARGREAVES: My question is to the Treasurer. Minister, one of the key planks of the government's economic policy in the lead-up to the last election was the establishment of the knowledge fund to support knowledge-based industry. Can the minister inform the Assembly of the progress of the knowledge fund to date?
MR QUINLAN: I thank Mr Hargreaves for the question. We did bring forward a policy in the early days that supported the development of a knowledge-based economy, and set up a knowledge fund that was indeed a key plank of that election policy and was designed to deliver assistance to our knowledge-based industries. Members will recall that, in the prevailing budget, $6 million was set aside for that purpose.
The knowledge fund is designed to deliver assistance via commercialisation grants, proof of concept grants and equity investment. The fund also provides assistance for high-tech businesses looking to develop and improve their management skills. Naturally, applicants for funding are assessed on a number of strict criteria which