Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 18 June 2009) . . Page.. 2566 ..
MR STANHOPE: I thank Ms Hunter for the question. I must say I do not have in my head, and I am not confident in saying, that the two blocks were blocks 9 and 11 and that they were sold together but I certainly can confirm that a significant piece of land on the corner of Canberra Avenue and National Circuit was recently auctioned. I believe, from memory, the price achieved for that sale was just over $11 million and that a significant, well-known and entirely respected Canberra developer, the Willemsen group, were the successful bidders.
It is not the case that the ACT government was offered $16 million for a single part of that site. At no stage has the government ever been offered $16 million by anybody. In fact, it is fair to say that prior to the auction the government had received no offers of any amount from anyone in relation to that particular site.
It has, of course, as you know, as it is the subject of your question, been reported in the Canberra Times on two occasions that this land had been offered by the government for $16 million. That is quite false. It has been a matter of some concern to me, when it was originally put to me by the Canberra Times and published, that an offer of $16 million had been made. I, in response to questions from the Canberra Times, insisted that that was not the case. Nevertheless, the claims—
Mrs Dunne: Did you write a letter to the editor?
MR STANHOPE: I have written a letter to the editor, yes, but it has not yet been published.
Mr Smyth: I wonder why.
MR STANHOPE: It is interesting that you ask. Subsequent to that, my office, in seeking to determine the basis of the claim published by the Canberra Times, made inquiries of relevant journalists with the Canberra Times. The Canberra Times did make available to my office copies of the correspondence which they purported substantiated their claim of a $16 million offer.
We then sought to substantiate those claims with the department, and it is a matter of enormous regret to me that the letter that has been provided to the Canberra Times has been revealed to be either a forgery or a draft of a letter which was subsequently supposed to have been sent to the ACT government but which was never sent.
Mr Seselja: Can you tell us about it?
MR STANHOPE: I am more than happy to give you full information on this. I must say that we have not fully concluded our discussions with the Canberra Times in relation to this matter but the Canberra Times, in good faith, has reported a matter, an allegation made to them by people that I understand have some associations with Nicex. I believe the Canberra Times is now considering how to respond to the fact that it relied on information which it was provided and which it now, I understand from advice received in my office, accepts is completely false. That, of course, is a matter of grave concern. This has yet to be formally concluded or resolved.