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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 71

Senator CARR (2:53 PM) —My question is to Senator Ian Campbell, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage and the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Regional Services. Will the minister now confirm that the $1.2 million grant to Primary Energy Pty Ltd was in breach of the Regional Partnerships guidelines with regard to funding for research? Can the minister also provide whether other aspects of the guidelines were complied with, including the normal due diligence study undertaken into the financial viability of the project? Further, given that these guidelines also require additional information relating to company finances, ownership and management structures if the application exceeds $250,000, what additional due diligence was undertaken? Will the minister table the results of this additional investigation? Was the financial viability of the project dependent on the provision of government funding?

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —You would think that Labor might give up on picking on Primary Energy after they were totally humiliated when they asked questions about an application of that company for grants under the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program. They had the audacity to come into this place and claim that that company had been knocked back under the guidelines and application processes for that program under the Australian Greenhouse Office in my department. Within minutes of being asked the question, we confirmed that they had not applied under round 1, round 2 or round 3 of that application process.

I am still waiting for Senator Wong and Senator Carr to come in and apologise and show some basic courtesy to people like Ian Kiernan, the chairman of that company, who has now publicly said that Labor's attacks are undermining the very viability and the chances of that company to proceed and make sure that they are ready. Mr Kiernan's letter, which I read into the Hansard record earlier in the week, made it clear that the grant they had been seeking was a tiny fraction of the investment intended to be put into that project—a project that Mr Kiernan AO, the head of Clean Up Australia, a world-leading, internationally renowned solo yachtsman, a fantastic Australian who has led the world in relation to environmental matters and who is now leading this project. We share with Ian Kiernan the belief that this project can deliver 40 full-time jobs in the region. I think we have said 50; he has said 40. I am prepared to accept his word for it. We agree that there will be 350 additional flow-on jobs in the community, significant advantages in building a supply chain for the commodities in that region and also significant advantages for the structural adjustment that is required within the Namoi Valley because of the need to move to more sustainable water use—an issue the Senate spent most of the morning talking about. We support that.

Senator Carr obviously does not like listening to or accepting the answers. He has been proven wrong so many times. He will not apologise to the proponents, he will not apologise to the people of Gunnedah who are behind this project; but he needs to understand that this project was approved under the guidelines. He also made the allegation earlier in the week that it was not supported by the Namoi Valley structural adjustment process. It was. The committee recommended it. So you are wrong every time, Senator Carr. If you want to pick on a project, do not pick on a project that is as good as this.

Also, please do us a favour and tell us whether Labor would can this project. Tell us which one of all of these fantastic projects funded by the regional program would Labor ditch. Will they ditch the Gunnedah project? Will they tell Ian Kiernan to go packing? Will they tell the City of Fremantle to pack up their On Track Cycles program? Will they tell the Craftwest Centre for Contemporary Craft people that they can pack up that? Let us get the member for Fremantle, the member for Perth and the member for Brand to tell all of these recipients and let Senator Carr tell people of Gunnedah that they will close down these projects.

Senator CARR —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In providing an additional answer to a question without notice on Monday on a matter he just referred to again, the minister advised the Senate:

In relation to the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program, my department ... confirms that the company—

Primary Energy—

has not registered an interest in or submitted any applications for GGAP funding ...

Yesterday the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry revealed that Primary Energy Pty Ltd `did register an expression of interest in relation to the third round' of the Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program. Which of these conflicting statements is correct? When will the record be corrected?

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —Strangely enough, your whip Senator George Campbell knows exactly when the record was corrected because it was corrected within a few minutes of sitting time. The record was corrected immediately. The fact remains—and the Labor Party do not like it—that no application was made under round 1, round 2 or round 3.