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Government has no plans at present to privatise SMEC



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MINISTER FOR

SCIENCE and TECHNOLOGY THE HON. SIMON CREAN

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■ IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MONDAY 20 MAY 1991 54/91

GOVERNMENT HAS NO PLANS AT PRESENT TO PRIVATISE SMEC

The Federal Minister for Science and Technology, Mr Simon Crean, said today the Government had no plans at this stage to 'move towards the full or partial privatisation of- the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC). .

Mr Crean, who has portfolio responsibility for SMEC, was responding to media reports concerning the future of the Corporation.

He said the Government was concerned about SMEC's past financial performance and future viability as an engineering consultancy.

Late last year, Mr Crean requested the Department of Industry, Technology and Commerge to commission a consultancy to provide advice on the financial and commercial implications of restructuring options for-SMEC. ·

The consultancy, undertaken by Arthur Andersen & Co., identified either outright sale or merger with another .

engineering .consulting firm as the preferred options for any future strategic-re-positioning of SMEC. .

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Following meetings with the SMEC Board, unions and staff representatives, Mr Crean decided that prior to any consideration of the Arthur Andersen recommendations, the Government would attempt to retain ownership of the Corporation through restructuring proposals aimed at improving efficiency and profitability.

in January, he requested a restructuring plan from the SMEC Board. A plan was submitted by the Board, after consultation with staff, and this was endorsed by the Minister. However, the Minister believed that the plan should go further and

asked the Board to commi-s-sion consultants for that purpose.

Mr Crean said today he looked forward to a workable restructuring plan being developed and eventually agreed to by all parties, including staff. Implementation of the restructuring plan would be undertaken over the next few months. .

"I believe the plan will provide a blueprint for SMEC's future. Also, I am confident the organisation's financial performance can'be improved and that it will continue to play an important role in generating export income for Australia," he said.

The Minister said the issue of SMEC's future had been raised in the context of the NSW State Election by the Liberal State Member for Monaro, Mr P Cochran.

Mr Crean said that Mr Cochran had not made any representations to him in relation to SMEC and, indeed, under a Federal Liberal Government SMEC would be immediately sold to private enterprise.

On the other hand, Mr Crean said the Federal Member for Eden-Monar.o, Mr Jim Snow, and the Labor candidate for Monaro j

Ms P Lockwood, had consistently made representations in order . to seek assurances for the future of SMEC.

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Mr Crean said it was clear that Mr. Cochran had used the SMEC issue as a crude piece of electioneering which had served only to unnecessarily upset Corporation employees and their families.

CANBERRA · Contact:

Minister's Office Carlos Gonzales (06) 277 7280