Page 1195 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 9 April 2008

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Mrs Dunne: Probity, due process, doing something with some documentation to support your decision.

MR SPEAKER: Mrs Dunne, cease interjecting. You will be able to ask that question later.

MR SMYTH: Given that there was nothing in writing, according to your officials, on what basis did you approve the decision to change the operator of the balloon festival?

MR BARR: I held a number of meetings with my department and also with members of the Chief Minister’s Department who had been in contact with—who had been approached by—the local operator, back in November last year, who had expressed concern that the event would not go ahead because of a failure to reach agreement with the former operator.

It is worth noting that in the 22-year history of this event the government has run up to 16 of those years. It has been run within the ACT government and, just prior to self-government, presumably by the relevant federal agency at that time. It has been run within government for the vast majority of the time. Even when the event management was contracted out to CBF, the ACT government, through tourism and through events, provided the bulk of the on-the-ground staff for the organisation of the event and huge amounts of in-kind assistance—often in the order of $75,000 to $100,000 of in-kind assistance—as well as always being the major cash sponsor.

Given the circumstances and the failure of the previous operator to agree to meet its obligations—that is, a nine-day balloon event—for the money that was available, we were left with three choices. I will repeat them for the shadow minister: no event; a reduced event—a four-day event even though we had increased the funding by 40 per cent; or going with a local operator who will provide an outstanding event from the 19th to the 27th.

My challenge to the opposition is for them to indicate loudly and clearly whether they support the local operator running this event and, given that the president of the former organisation is going to be piloting a balloon in this event, whether—if he is big enough to be able to come and be part of the new event—they are big enough to give up this petty, smearing campaign that continues behind the scenes.

We know the real story behind this. We know what Mr Smyth is up to. We have seen him peddling innuendo around the role that public servants might have played in this. We also know very clearly the views of the tourism industry. Mr Smyth had to get up in this place and indicate the views of TIC and the views of the Tourism Ministerial Advisory Council in relation to the management of this event.

MR SPEAKER: Come back to the subject matter of the question, Mr Barr.

MR BARR: Let me make it clear again. Through the tourism events assistance program, the government has provided $50,000 for the marketing of the event. That is what that money is entitled to be spent on, regardless of who is operating the event.

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