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Wednesday, 29 February 1984
Page: 184

Senator WALSH (Minister for Resources and Energy)(6.55) —I am sorry, I did not hear the first couple of minutes of Senator Kilgariff's speech because the adjournment debate came on somewhat earlier than had been anticipated. However, I did hear the end. The simple answer to his question is that the Northern Territory Government approved of both the terms of reference of the inquiry and of Mr David Hill to be the inquirer. The complaint is that the result of the rigorous analysis which Mr Hill has done on this matter and the conclusions which he has reached as a result of having conducted that rigorous analysis is not the result the Northern Territory Government wanted. That is the basis for the Northern Territory Government's complaint. Having approved of an inquirer and the terms of reference of an inquiry the Northern Territory Government then decided to reject the inquiry when it did not produce the result it wanted. I suppose it is an attitude that has become very common in the National Party which is a cousin, stepbrother or something of that nature of the Government of the Northern Territory. It is an attitude displayed by the Leader of the National Party (Mr Sinclair) who does not approve of inquiries either unless they produce the result that he wants. The Hill inquiry showed, even on an optimistic assessment of the likely revenues and traffic that will be carried by the proposed railway, that by the end of the century an accumulated deficit of around $1 billion would be hung around the neck of whatever government accepted the financial responsibility. Prior to the appointment of the Hill inquiry the Northern Territory Government had already displayed that it did not have any confidence in the project and that it was not willing to put its money where its mouth was because it rejected out of hand the earlier offer made by the Commonwealth to provide 60 per cent of the capital and the territorial government would provide 40 per cent. In other words, the Northern Territory Government thinks it can get some political mileage out of this and it is therefore attempting to do so. There is no justification either in economics or in equity for the claims it is making.

Question resolved in the negative.