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Thursday, 15 September 1983
Page: 935


Mr KEOGH(8.10) —Honourable members will know that the destruction of the Queensland coalition Government arose from a decision of the Liberal Minister, Terry White, to support the Liberal Party of Australia policy which calls for the establishment of a public accounts committee. Equally important would be the need for a public works committee in that Queensland Parliament. Both of these committees will be formed in Queensland after the election as it is part of the policy of the Australian Labor Party to do so. Press reports last week outlined a radical departure from recognised government tendering procedures in Queensland. These have highlighted the urgent need for a public works committee in Queensland. Last week the Queensland Government offered five selected construction companies up to $25,000 each to tender for hospital projects because it wants to publicise those projects for election purposes prior to 22 October. The offer refers to new hospital facilities at Nambour, Brisbane, Townsville and Southport.


Mr McVeigh —Mr Speaker, I take a point of order.


Mr KEOGH —The truth hurts a bit.


Mr McVeigh —Mr Speaker--


Mr KEOGH —Come on, sit down.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Darling Downs will come to his point of order.


Mr McVeigh —Mr Speaker, I assume that I obey you rather than listen to obnoxious remarks.


Mr SPEAKER —That is right. You should obey the Chair, as do all honourable members. Please come to your point of order.


Mr McVeigh —Mr Speaker, the honourable member made a terrible remark. Obviously he is misinformed because it was on a design and construct basis.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.


Mr KEOGH —I understand that the companies selectively invited are Civil and Civic Pty Ltd, Watkins Ltd, Leighton Contractors Pty Ltd, Concrete Constructions (Queensland) Pty Ltd and John Holland (Constructions) Pty Ltd. I have no doubt that, in the present economic climate in Queensland, with all construction companies finding work difficult to get, all these companies would have been most anxious to submit quotations for this work without the offer of a gratuitous payment by the Queensland Government. In fact, probably up to 100 companies in Queensland that are actively engaged in construction work in that State could and would be most anxious to undertake the work. Even if this most irregular tender arrangement had not been proposed, the action of this unelected Government in Queensland to blatantly set aside its own 'Standard Code of Tendering' for political propaganda purposes is wholly unwarranted. I have a copy of that Government's code of tendering. Part 4 states that: No authority or department shall enter into any contracts, save in accordance with the code. The code specifically says that tenders shall be invited by public tender, published in such a manner as to encourage a reasonable measure of competition. But that was not done in Queensland on this occasion. This opens up the likelihood of a massive misuse of public money, by way of not only the already agreed payment of $25,000 to each of these selected tenderers but also the likely further misuse of unknown amounts because of the open-ended cost of the project while under construction. The method has been rightly condemned by the Leader of the Opposition in Queensland, Keith Wright. It has likewise been condemned by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and the Queensland Master Builders Association, whose Executive Director, Mr Des Hodgman, said:

. . . the lastest approach was a departure from normal government tendering procedures.

I am certain there are builders in all parts of the state who have the capacity to do these projects and are screaming out for work in those areas . . .

The Deputy Leader of the Queensland Parliamentary Liberal Party also condemned the proposal that has been put into effect by the Queensland Government. He said :

. . . the latest situation would never have arisen if Queensland still had Liberal Ministers.

It is wrong. It defies the rules of open tendering . . .

Of course he is in disagreement with his colleague the ex-Minister for Health, Mr Austin, who agrees with the idea. He said that he supported it when he was Minister of Health.

Queenslanders can be reassured by two decisions of the Labor Opposition Leader, Keith Wright. The first is that on election to office, the Labor Government will re-call tenders in accordance with the recognised code of tendering. Secondly, after 22 October, the Labor Government in Queensland will establish a public works committee to guard against unwarranted and sometimes corrupt practices such as those adopted by the present Queensland Government. This public works committee will operate very much along the same lines as those of the Joint Committee on Public Works of this Parliament.

I put it to honourable members that what is proposed could not happen at a Federal level under the guidelines that are laid down for public works. Should there be justification for urgency in proceeding with these hospital projects they could be undertaken speedily by the well-established method of construction management. This would allow virtually an immediate start on the work before one line is drawn on a plan by overlapping design and construction arrangements. However, it would control both the cost limits and the design standards.

In recent days I have had the opportunity to consult with and discuss senior officers of the Department of Housing and Construction some of the tender practices. As honourable members will know, this Department is the construction authority for Federal projects carried out on behalf of the Federal government of the time. The officers to whom I spoke condemned the proposal in the strongest possible terms. They were clear in their assessment of the grave dangers of awarding any construction contract following receipt of tenders on the basis that the Queensland Government has called them by this most irregular method. In their words, to compare the various tenders received would be like comparing apples with pears. There will be no clear basis for comparison of the various projects submitted prior to selection of a successful tenderer. I was told that there would be insurmountable practical difficulties and it would be impossible to make a comparative evaluation of these proposals. It would obviously come back to a subjective judgment by those who were making the assessment on behalf of the self-appointed, National Party Government in Queensland. I am sure that no clear cut, fair decision could be made.

Many experienced people within the Public Service and within private enterprise have agreed with those observations. They concur with my opinion that it would be most unlikely in the end to lead to anything but favouritism by those making the selection. Because of the wide variety of building materials and design practices that could be included in the various submissions, any decision would leave many reasons for the unsuccessful tenderers to dispute the decision. Furthermore, there would be no arrangement whereby the total, overall cost of the project could be controlled once a tenderer had used the $25,000 present that had been received from the Queensland Government and had to submit a proposal. This is a scandalous abuse of public money. It is a scandalous abuse of privilege. The National Party has taken it upon itself to run the Government of that State even though, as a National Party, it was not elected to the position of government of that State. The sooner the people of Queensland have the opportunity, as they will on 22 October, to dismiss the Government and get decent, stable government in Queensland through electing a Labor Government, the better.