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Wednesday, 23 March 1966

Mr FAIRHALL (PATERSON, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Defence) - I am generally aware that many firms in Western Australia which set out to supply goods and services to the original contractors for the North West Cape project have not yet had their accounts paid. I am aware also that the amounts outstanding total a considerable figure. The contract for this work was let by the United States Government. Thereafter, the operation became purely a commercial one. The people who sought to deal with the corporation should have protected their accounts by looking into the credit rating of the organisation. Not only did the first contractor leave some debts lying about, if I may use that term, from which the Western Australian suppliers should have learned some lessons, but unfortunately the same people committed the same error with the second contract and now have an additional series of unpaid accounts there. I stress again that these are matters of ordinary business prudence. At this stage, although the Government is necessarily concerned that Australian suppliers should not have had their accounts fully paid, it is very doubtful whether the Government can do anything to see that they are paid. The ordinary recourse to law is available to these suppliers.

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