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Tuesday, 9 October 1984
Page: 1896

Mr REEVES —Is the Treasurer aware that the Country Liberal Party Government in the Northern Territory has confiscated the casino complexes owned by Federal Hotels Ltd? Is the Treasurer concerned about the adverse effect this move will have on private investment in the development of the Northern Territory, despite the hilarity expressed by some honourable members opposite?

Mr KEATING —I am aware of the confiscation being mounted by the Country Liberal Party Government in the Northern Territory and I am very concerned about it. In recent weeks a number of business people, both in Australia and overseas, have expressed their concern to me at the ruthless and bloody-minded behaviour of the Northern Territory Government. The Commonwealth Government is interested in growth, and the Northern Territory is a very important economic part of Australia. One of the foundation stones of growth is private investment, and to promote private investment the Government has fostered a better climate in Australia. Particularly in respect of public infrastructure in the Northern Territory, it has started a number of programs which will be of particular benefit to that area: The Tindal Royal Australian Air Force base, $176m; the Darwin Airport, $96m; the new power station, $480m; the all-weather highway from Adelaide to Darwin, $27m, ultimately part of a $200m program; and Aussat and remote area telephone program, which will give the whole Territory access to television, radio and telephones, at a cost of $400m. In other words, the Government is not just promoting economic growth but is setting down the infrastructure upon which can be built a higher level of private sector investment in the Northern Territory.

What Mr Everingham, the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, has done, is extremely tragic. As a result of that policy of confiscation in regard to Federal Hotels-which had a 15-year agreement with the Government of which he was Leader and which now, after five years, without explanation has simply had confiscated from it these assets it had built up-there will be a tragic decline in confidence for investment by all investors in the Northern Territory. What investor could take the punt upon the whim and caprice of the Country Liberal Party in the Northern Territory that any long term investment, which would be a front-end loaded investment with a long payback time-that is, substantial, worthwhile private investment-would ever be allowed to come to fruition and that proper earnings could be reaped from it?

Mr Everingham has tugged away at the total fabric of confidence for investment in that place. One does not know what he hopes to gain from it. Apparently this very day he is resigning his place in the Northern Territory House of Assembly to contest the Federal seat of the Northern Territory. That will be a waste of his time. He has already conceded that this Government will win an increased majority. The people of the Territory will dismiss as humbug his rhetoric about private enterprise and private investment when he has done such a damaging act to the whole fabric of confidence that surrounds investment in the Territory, despite the fact that this Government is continuing to build the basic public infrastructure.

It is interesting that the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Party of Australia-those 'great supporters of private enterprise'-have not said a word of condemnation about the fact that Federal Hotels has had its assets ripped away. Not one penny of compensation has been offered to Federal Hotels. All one can assume is that the Opposition supports the confiscation which has taken place in the Northern Territory. The Leader of the Opposition, his Deputy and the Leader of the National Party, by their silence, indicate support for this policy of bloody- minded confiscation of private assets in the Northern Territory. This Government will have no bar of such procedures in any part of Australia where its realm is important. I indicate that my colleague, the honourable member for the Northern Territory, will make quite clear there where this Government stands on this issue. I have no doubt that the good sense of the electors of the Northern Territory will dismiss the candidature of Mr Everingham for the national Parliament on the basis that he has destroyed the fabric of confidence for investment in the Territory which can only hold the prospect of ever seeing a true move to statehood. Without high levels of private sector investment, the Territory will never make statehood. I believe the people of the Northern Territory understand that and will reject Mr Everingham and his policies for whatever Parliament he may wish to nominate.