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Wednesday, 27 March 1985
Page: 909

Senator MACKLIN(5.16) —I raise briefly a matter connected with the supply of materials for the Brisbane International Airport. It is not encompassed totally within the paper before the Senate. The issue raised by Senator MacGibbon, particularly in view of the three-quarters of a million dollar payout, raises some problems. I am not convinced that the materials were necessarily within the specifications, but then again I certainly do not wish to raise any issues with the Professor of Civil Engineering, Professor Stevens. The point I raise concerns the Department of Housing and Construction and its method of giving and letting contracts. That is the more important issue raised in this final report. I believe that Professor Stevens has dealt with a single item, that is the Blue Rock Quarries problem, and has not necessarily broadened his ambit to look at the letting, but more importantly the recalling, of tenders constantly for the new Brisbane Airport.

In general, on a number of occasions, tenders have been called for, people have submitted tenders, the date for submission of such tenders has closed, and then technical reasons have been disclosed for re-letting those tenders. In the commercial world the problem immediately arises that all one's competitors now know the full costing operation that particular companies engaged in those tenders had put forward. Hence one finds consistently in the letting of tenders for the new Brisbane Airport a grinding down of the price. That may be fine in terms of revenue, but it is an abuse of the tendering system. In particular, it is very difficult for smaller companies, which are invariably squeezed out by that use of the tendering system. Invariably the people who remain in are the very large, expansive companies which are able to absorb possible losses on one part to get gains somewhere else. The item before us, on the supply of materials by Blue Rock Quarries, a smaller concern, is mute evidence to how those smaller companies are squeezed mercilessly in these types of operations. Unless the tendering system is followed in a correct and fair way we will find consistently in terms of government operations that only the very large companies will ever have a chance and that the smaller companies might as well not bother.

Question resolved in the affirmative.