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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2126

Senator ABETZ (7.30 p.m.) —I rise this evening to deal with a matter of real concern and bring to the public's attention dealings in Tasmania's west coast mining tenements which are severely prejudicing the exploitation of Tasmania's mineral wealth. I refer to transactions undertaken by one Francis Corbett and Major Mining Ltd., which is now in liquidation. It is a matter which I trust will be fully investigated by the Australian Securities Commission.

  The history of the matter is as follows. On 19 May 1989, His Grace the Most Noble Duke of Avram, John Charlton, sold mining tenements to a company named Major Mining Ltd. This agreement was sealed by both parties. The chairman of Major Mining Ltd. bought the transfer with a personal cheque drawn on the State Bank of New South Wales on the account of F.J. Corbett. An Australian Securities Commission search disclosed that one Francis James Corbett was a director of Major Mining Ltd.

  The agreement between the duke and Major Mining provided for a right to repurchase the tenements in the event of Major Mining on-selling its rights. I refer to clause 6 of the agreement, which was written in by hand by Mr Corbett, the chairman of Major Mining. The clause states:

The purchaser grants the vendor the first right of opportunity to bid for the repurchase in the event of the sale of the aforementioned tenements.

In due course, Major Mining's chairman, Mr Francis Corbett, as a director, obtained a registered fixed and floating charge over the companies assets. He did not disclose this in the chairman's report, signed the very same day as the alleged charge was created. Major Mining, in due course—and, I cannot help but think, deliberately—went into liquidation.

  It appears Mr Corbett, operating under the registered fixed and floating charge, sold off the major asset of Major Mining—namely, the tenement—to a new company, Allegiance Mining. This was done without reference to the duke or to the shareholders. Mr Corbett received the benefit in the form of cash and shares in Allegiance Mining stock, a company which was registered on 16 June 1993, but the allotment of shares was only lodged some three months later on 9 September 1993. I understand those dealings have been notified to the Australian Securities Commission.

  Mr Corbett, now with a different christian name and different address, appears as a director in Allegiance Mining, according to Australian Securities Commission records. It appears, on a prima facie basis, that the duke has been duped by Mr Corbett. CRA, a well-known company, now has a controlling interest in these mining tenements. It is interesting to note that CRA was a joint venture partner with Major Mining Ltd prior to the sale by the duke to Major Mining.

  In raising this matter tonight, I express my concern at the dealings and transactions with a Tasmanian resource which is, I believe, a very wealthy deposit of silver, lead and zinc. The people of the west coast of Tasmania are facing a bleak future. The mining industry is in decline. To counter this, the state Liberal government introduced reforming legislation which is of great assistance to the mining industry and of great benefit to the workers of the mining industry.

  It is a sad and sorry situation that these reforms, which were designed to assist the industry, can be brought to nothing by individuals and companies who are not living up to the expectations that the community rightly expects of its corporate citizens. I trust that

now this saga is in the public arena, it will be resolved expeditiously to allow the development of this resource for the benefit of all Tasmanians and especially the people of the west coast.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Herron)—On behalf of the President, I advise honourable senators that Estimates Committee D is to meet in committee room 2S3 at 8.00 p.m. this evening. I also advise honourable senators that committees are scheduled to meet tomorrow morning as follows: Estimates Committee E at 7.30 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. in committee room 2S1; Estimates Committee F at 8.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m. in committee room 1S4; and the Select Committee on Certain Aspects of Foreign Ownership Decisions in relation to the Print Media at 9.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and 8.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. in committee room 2S1.

Senate adjourned at 7.35 p.m.