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Monday, 19 September 1994
Page: 870

Senator SHORT —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I preface my question by noting that, as a result of taxpayer support, ANL—a company which only three weeks ago the minister, Mr Brereton, said `couldn't be given away'—is now, according to the very same minister, a valuable asset. I ask: how much does the government now believe ANL to be worth? I also ask: will the minister assure the Senate that the government will obtain a genuine due diligence report to ensure that Labor's mates do not buy ANL at mates' rates as a result of the Prime Minister's and the government's quite outrageous deal, at taxpayers' expense, with the maritime unions?

Senator COLLINS —The question once again indicates the complete double standards of the opposition on this issue. The Minister for Transport has been criticised for public statements that he has made. The government has established an interim board that is going through the very difficult process at the moment of getting the best possible result for Australia, for the company and for its employees. But the opposition is now seeking from the government an exact valuation of what we think the company is worth. It would be totally irresponsible to provide that.

  I state the obvious by saying that, apart from anything else, as a result of arrangements that were made by the government in meetings with the unions—arrangements which are provided by other maritime nations such as Great Britain, and have been for many years—the assumptions on which those original valuations of the company would have been based in any case have now changed.

Senator SHORT —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The hypocrisy of that answer is absolutely breathtaking. It was the minister who did such huge damage to the value of the company by saying it was a `couldn't give away at any price' company. The minister has not attempted to answer my question, so I put it to him again: firstly, how much does the government now believe the company to be worth, and why the change in three weeks? Secondly, will the government assure the parliament that a proper and genuine due diligence report will be done on ANL to ensure that the maritime unions which have been fantastic recipients of this deal do not get a deal at what I said before were mates' rates?

Senator COLLINS —Why does the coalition not get someone to ask questions who understands the subject? The unions do not get a cent out of those arrangements; not a cent. The benefit is in fact passed on directly to the shipowners. Senator Short should do his homework.