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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2218

Senator CROWLEY —Has the attention of the Minister for Finance been drawn to a letter from Federal Pacific Hotels, signed J. M. Haddad, referring to the circulation by Mr Paul Everingham, MP, of a memorandum prescribing 'the events related to the Northern Territory Government's action with regard to the hotel/casinos in Darwin and Alice Springs'? Does the Minister agree with the claim of Federal Pacific Hotels that the memorandum is in part misleading, in part inaccurate, in part irrelevant and in total a wholly unsatisfactory explanation of an action described by a financial journal as 'totally inexcusable'? Does the Minister see any justification for Mr Haddad's claim for a judicial inquiry into 'the most extraordinary action by a government in the history of the Commonwealth'?

Senator WALSH —I think everybody has had the opportunity of seeing the letters and documents to which Senator Crowley referred. I have had a glance at them. Mr Everingham's chronology presents an extraordinary attempt to re-write the history of his Government's heavy-handed dealings in this affair. Without drawing unwarranted conclusions, I can certainly understand the discomfiture of Federal Pacific Hotels and the cause of its subsequent actions. Some of the telling differences between the accounts of Mr Everingham and Federal Pacific Hotels are that Mr Everingham's chronology provides no detail about 1983, except to say that Federal Pacific Hotels put the casino on the market, which is directly and thoroughly contradicted by the statement of Federal Pacific Hotels, which adds that it was asked to sell by Mr Everingham in August 1983 and provided a price only under duress.

Mr Everingham also leaves the impression that his Government was attempting to bail out a troubled private company. Federal Pacific Hotels has indicated that its financial problems were solvable and that it had heard that Mr Everingham had threatened to force the sale, an attempt which was ultimately successful. The company which ultimately took over from Federal Pacific Hotels, the Walkers company, has a 57 per cent equity in the company for a risk capital of $10,000. Mr Everingham also fails to mention what Federal Pacific Hotels calls 'the extraordinary financial concessions in respect of casino tax, that have been given to the new operators'. He also fails to mention the involvement of other people in the affair.

Perhaps the most crucial point of all is that Mr Haddad, in his letter to all members of the House of Representatives and the Senate of, I think, just a couple of weeks ago-I do not have the precise date-said that 'Federal Pacific Hotels presses for a thorough judicial inquiry with wide and appropriate terms of reference to establish the facts behind the decision to expropriate the company's properties in Darwin and Alice Springs, which demonstrates in the clearest possible way that Federal Pacific Hotels believes that nothing is to be lost, from its side of the case anyway, by having a complete and public airing of the facts'.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I ask the Minister to table the paper from which he has quoted.

Senator Walsh —Does the honourable senator mean all the letters or--

Senator Chaney —I mean the extensive document the Minister has been leafing through and quoting from.

The PRESIDENT —Does the Minister claim confidentiality or will he table the document?

Senator Walsh —I have no objection. I table the document.

The PRESIDENT —The Minister has tabled the document.

Senator Chaney —While I am on my feet, Mr President, I address a question to the Minister for Finance.

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Leader of the Government had risen to capture my attention after the Leader of the Opposition had asked the Minister to table the document from which he was quoting. I think Question Time was brought to an end at that stage.

Senator Chaney —The Leader of the Government had not asked at that point.

Senator Button —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on notice.

The PRESIDENT —The Leader of the Government had clearly attracted my attention. The Leader of the Opposition is out of order.