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Thursday, 5 May 1994
Page: 287


Senator SPINDLER (9.57 a.m.) —The Australian Democrats will support Senator Campbell's motion. The minister is correct in saying there is a difficult balance to be struck; we have debated that on a previous occasion. On that occasion I offered the view that I would accept commercial confidentiality being necessary where a lease has not been concluded or where, as in this case, a whole building has not been substantially let, but where a number of leases are under negotiation. In other words, if this building is in the market to be let, and we are either going to call tenders or have negotiations, then I would accept that to force total disclosure of commercial details at that point would disadvantage the operation of the unit.

  In this particular case it is my understanding—as it was in the other case before the Senate some months ago—that the leases in question have actually been concluded and legally completed. I do not see any problem with disclosure. I have been informed that the building is 87 per cent let. In the current state of the property market I believe that we can accept that this means that the building is substantially let. There will always be a minor factor of vacancy occurring in the market.

  In those circumstances, it appears to the Australian Democrats that the consideration of public disclosure of financial transactions which involve, or potentially involve, taxpayers' money require disclosure. The minister has said that in this particular transaction there is no incentive offered to the businesses or government organisations taking the leases; in other words, the minister claims that no subsidies involving taxpayers' money have been offered.

  If that is the case, there is even less need for the details of the transaction to remain confidential. Yesterday I contacted the minister's office, indicating our likely position. Clearly, there was an implied suggestion that, if the minister had an argument to offer against the position we were going to adopt, I was inviting the minister's office to provide that argument. I have not received any argument from either of the ministers' offices on this matter. On the basis of what the minister said today in the chamber and the facts before the Senate, the Australian Democrats will continue to support Senator Campbell's motion.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.