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Monday, 14 March 2005
Page: 132


Senator O’Brien asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Regional Services, upon notice, on 22 November 2004:

With reference to the grant of $6,000,000 for the National Equine and Livestock Centre project in Tamworth under the Regional Partnerships Programme:

(1) (a)   What total funds have been paid to the Proponent; (b) if the funds were paid in one sum, on what date was the payment made; and (c) if the funds were paid in instalments, please identify instalment dates and amounts paid on each date.

(2)   What is the name of the Proponent.

(3)   What is the proponent’s business address.

(4)   Will the Minister provide a full description of the project.

(5)   On what date did the proponent first discuss the Regional Partnerships Programme funding application with the New England North West Area Consultative Committee.

(6)   On what date was the application submitted to the Department.

(7)   On what date did the department send a copy of the submitted application to the New England North West Area Consultative Committee for comment and recommendation.

(8) (a)   On what date did the New England North West Area Consultative Committee provide the department with a response; and (b) what was the nature of the response.

(9)   On what date did the Department commence assessment of the application to determine if it was suitable for Regional Partnerships funding.

(10)   (a) What representations were received from the National Party candidate for New England for the 2004 federal election in respect to the project proposal; and (b) on what date(s) and in what form(s) were the representations made by the candidate.

(11)   What referees were listed on the application.

(12)   What project partners, if any, did the application identify.

(13)   What funding did the application seek.

(14)   (a) What cash contribution(s) from the proponent and/or project partners did the application identify; and (b) what was the status of the cash contribution(s) when the application was lodged with the Department.

(15)   (a) What in-kind contribution(s) from the proponent and/or project partners did the application identify; and (b) what was the status of the in-kind contribution(s) when the application was lodged with the Department.

(16)   What applications over the previous five years to Commonwealth, State or Local Governments were identified in the application for funding of the project.

(17)   Did the application include a breakdown of various project cost items; if not, why not.

(18)   What key milestones were noted in the project timetable that formed part of the application including a project start and completion dates.

(19)   What project rationale was identified in the application.

(20)   How did the project description align with its region’s identified priorities, including priorities identified by the New England North West Area Consultative Committee in its Strategic Regional Plan.

(21)   Was a project plan and feasibility study attached to the application; if not, on what date(s) were these documents provided.

(22)   (a) What evidence of community support was contained in the application; and (b) was a letter of support from the unsuccessful National Party candidate for New England for the 2004 Federal Election and/or Senator Sandy Macdonald attached to the application.

(23)   What evidence was provided in the application demonstrating the project would be self-sustaining.

(24)   Was an independent risk assessment of the proponent or the project or both based on information provided in the Regional Partnerships funding application; if so: (a) on what date was the independent assessment ordered; (b) who undertook it; (c) when was it completed; (d) what was its conclusion; (e) how much did it cost; and (f) can a copy of the Assessment Report be provided; if not, why not.

(25)   If no independent risk assessment was undertaken, why not.

(26)   With reference to additional requirements imposed on applicants for Regional Partnerships funding exceeding $250,000:

(a)  

   Did the Proponent provide an outline of its management structure including full names, dates of birth, current residential addresses and driver’s licence numbers of relevant persons concerned with the project; if so, on what date; if not, why not.

(b)  

   Did the Proponent provide audited profit and loss and balance sheet statements for the previous three financial years; if so, on what date; if not, why not.

(c)  

   Did the Proponent provide an authorised statement of financial position; if so, on what date; if not, why not.

(d)  

   Did the Proponent provide tax returns for the past three financial years; if so, on what date; if not, why not.

(e)  

   Did the Proponent provide a business plan for the project, including:

(i)  

   a feasibility study,

(ii)  

   industry/data research,

(iii)  

   a three year cash flow projection for the project including assumptions used and sensitive factors in the projection,

(iv)  

   a market strategy including assumptions used,

(v)  

   a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (SWOT) analysis, and

(vi)  

   a full list of pecuniary interests relevant to the project.

(27)   Did the initial funding application fully comply with Regional Partnerships Programme guidelines; if not, what elements of the application were non-compliant.

(28)   (a) If applicable, on what date(s) was the application varied; and (b) in each case, how was the application varied.

(29)   (a) On what date did the Department make a recommendation to the Minister; (b) what recommendation did the Department make; and (c) were any preliminary or draft recommendations referred to the Minister and/or discussed with his office; if so, what draft recommendations were referred and/or discussed.

(30)   (a) On what occasions did the Minister and/or his office meet with the Proponent and/or supporters of the project; and (b) in respect to each occasion, can the Minister identify the date, duration, attendance and matters discussed.

(31)   How did the Proponent address each of the matters of concern identified in the 2002 independent assessment of the proposed National Equine and Livestock Centre project by Professor John Chudleigh, including:

(a)  

   insufficient funding to complete the project;

(b)  

   over ambitious usage targets necessary to service debt;

(c)  

   lack of funds from the equine industry; and

(d)  

   no prospect of commercial viability.

(32)   Did the Minister impose any unwritten conditions on the grant, including a requirement that the Member for New England step down from the Project Board and disassociate himself from the proposal.

(33)   On what date was the funding application approved by the Minister.

(34)   On what date(s) and in what form(s) did the Department and/or the Minister inform the proponent, the New England North West Area Consultative Committee, the Member for New England and the unsuccessful National Party candidate for New England for the 2004 Federal Election about the Minister’s funding approval.

(35)   On what date did the Department and/or the Minister publicly announce the grant.

(36)   Will the Minister provide a copy of the original Regional Partnerships Programme funding application, including attachments, and all subsequent variations; if not, why not.

(37)   On what date did the Department commence negotiations with the Proponent on a funding agreement.

(38)   On what date was the funding agreement signed.

(39)   Will the Minister provide a copy of the funding agreement; if not, why not.


Senator Ian Campbell (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —The Minister for Transport and Regional services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1) (a)   Nil. (b) N/A. (c) N/A.

(2)   Tamworth Regional Council.

(3)   437 Peel St, Tamworth NSW 2340.

(4)   The project for the Australian Equine and Livestock Centre (AELC) is to establish a nationally significant multi-purpose equine and livestock venue for events and activities located in Tamworth. The AELC will enhance the sporting and exhibition facilities located at the Longyard Sports and Recreational Precinct in Tamworth and include the construction of a new facility including an indoor arena, public seating for 3,100 spectators with the capacity to increase to 5,000 seats in the future, stabling for 500 horses, truck parking and camping facilities for 212 vehicles. The project includes establishing a national administrative headquarters for the equine and livestock industry.

(5)   I am advised that the proponent has been working with the New England North West Area Consultative Committee (NENWACC) since May 2000 concerning the development of the Australian Equine and Livestock Centre Project. Discussion of an application for funding under Regional Partnerships commenced in June / July 2004.

(6)   16 August 2004.

(7)   27 August 2004.

(8) (a)   27 August 2004. (b) Under conventions accepted by successive governments, Ministers do not need to disclose advice they receive from their departments. Recommendations made by Area Consultative Committees (ACCs) are formative steps in the preparation of final advice and disclosure of them would disclose the content of the advice provided by my Department.

(9)   16 August 2004.

(10)   (a) Nil. (b) N/A.

(11)   The Department ceased assessing the application for funding of this project once it was made clear that the Government intended to fund it as an election commitment and that Regional Partnerships could be the vehicle for its delivery.

In accordance with procedures set up for the management of all election commitments nominated for funding under Regional Partnerships, the proponent will be asked to provide information so that the Department can ensure proper accountability and to identify and mitigate any risks to the Australian Government if funding for the project proceeds and include any findings in advice to the approving Minister.

   As the original application is no longer being considered, it is not appropriate that its details be released.

   (12) to (16) See the answer to part (11).

   (17) Yes.

   (18) to (27) See the answer to part (11).

   (28) (a) N/A. (b) N/A.

   (29) See the answer to part (11).

   (30) (a) I am advised that meetings took place on the following dates: - 19 September 2001; 22 February 2002; 13 May 2004; 4 June 2004 and 21 September 2004. (b) No.

   (31) See answer to part (11).

   (32) No.

   (33) to (35) Funding was announced as an election commitment on 21 September 2004.

   (36) See the answer to part (11).

   (37) to (39) As at 31 December 2004, negotiations with the Proponent had not commenced