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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 202


Mr WHITE(10.13) —I raise the issue of the Federal Government's lack of involvement in Expo 88 and the dishonest way it is going about letting a contract for the Australian pavilion at Expo 88 to an American company. This has serious implications for Australia. Other countries are set either to diminish their involvement or to pull out if the Federal Government is not seen to be serious about supporting its own Expo. There are three elements of this fiasco. The first element is the audio-visual contract for the Australian pavilion. The Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown) is all set to let this contract to an American company. Four Australian companies were asked to put forward proposals for the audio-visual set-up in our pavilion. They were each given 30 minutes to make a presentation which cost them anything up to $15,000. One has to ask whether the Minister had made up his mind before these proposals were called, or whether the committee had made up its mind to give them such cursory attention.

There is some evidence to suggest that some members of the committee which made the decision not to proceed with the Australian companies had at least been talking to this particular American company before the Australian companies made their presentations. There are also serious rumours to the effect that the system of tendering has been short-circuited. I, for one, intend to ask the Auditor-General to look at the system within the Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism to make sure that all the proper procedures were followed. It is common knowledge that within the Department there has been great resistance to what the Minister has been trying to do, to the extent that some officers of his Department have refused to go along with his wishes.

I have no doubt that tonight, tomorrow or on Thursday, when there is to be a launch of this exposition in front of Parliament House, the Minister will say that there are no Australian companies capable of fulfilling this contract. That in itself will be dishonest because there are Australian companies which are quite capable of fulfilling this audio-visual contract. In addition, no Australian company has been asked to tender for the contract. Australian companies have been asked to put forward some proposals but they have not been asked to tender for the contract which is in the process of being let to an American company. So it is rubbish for the Minister or anyone else to say that Australian companies have been given a go and have been found wanting. They have not been given the chance to tender for the contract.

I say tonight that there is some way to go in this matter before it is finalised. If the Government thinks it is going to get away with putting an American audio-visual company's display into the Australian pavilion in the Australian Expo, which is the centrepiece of our bicentennial year, it is very much mistaken. I see the Minister for Science (Mr Barry Jones) looking interested. He should be interested because it is his Government that is proposing to bypass Australian companies in a project which should be all Australian.

There is another element to this fiasco. The Australian pavilion is some four months behind schedule and there is no sign yet that it is going to get off the ground. The effect on other countries which have said that they are going to come to Expo is very severe indeed, as I will show honourable members. The report of the Commissioner-General of the Bureau of International Expositions, Mr Galopin, which is floating around this country says:

The presence of the Federal Government hardly makes itself felt.

The Commissioner-General of the BIE goes on to say:

The lack of commitment is equally noticeable on other fronts.

He goes through a list of other fronts. The Federal Government's role in Expo 88, the centrepiece of our bicentennial year, has been abysmal. I remind the Federal Government that this is a Federal, an Australian, exposition and not a Queensland exposition, if that is the reason that the Government is stepping back. The Minister's response to all this, which has been floating around the media for the last week or so, has been to disappear entirely. I understand that for some three days he was completely out of contact and no one knew where he was.

There will be a launch in front of Parliament House on Thursday to try to give the Expo a bit of a lift. No doubt the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) will be saying what a great job the Federal Government is doing in relation to Expo 88. Let me say that it is an abysmal job and throughout this country the lack of commitment of the Federal Government to our own Expo is becoming quite apparent. If the Government decides to tough it out and give the audio-visual contract to an American company there will be an almighty row.


Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.