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Thursday, 12 September 1985
Page: 512

(Question No. 298)

Senator Jones asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 15 May 1985:

(1) Has the Attorney-General's attention been drawn to a report in the Brisbane Courier-Mail of 17 July 1984, in which the Queensland Premier is quoted as saying he was not sorry he tried to get the State Government to back an oilseed venture in Queensland proposed by Paraguayan business entrepreneur, Dr Shiran Oskar.

(2) Is the Attorney-General aware of a claim by a British television company that Dr Oskar's business activities in several countries had, as at the middle of 1984, incurred accumulated debts of $15 million and losses of $13.5 million.

(3) Is Australia included in the several countries referred to in (2) above; if not, what are the countries referred to.

(4) Is the present legal and financial position regarding Dr Oskar known, particularly in relation to any Australian trading.

(5) Has the Premier of Queensland or any other Government or semi-government authority entered into any financial negotiations or agreements with Dr Oskar since January 1983.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) I have seen the report.

(2) I am aware of the claim only insofar as it is reported in the article in the Brisbane Courier Mail of 17 July 1984.

(3) In 1979 a loan of $1.6 million was provided under the now discontinued Commonwealth Regional Development Program to Bunbury Foods Pty Ltd (a company incorporated in Western Australia of which Dr Oskar was a director and has been said to be the principal promoter). The purpose of the loan was to assist in the establishment of an edible oil refinery and extraction plant venture at Bunbury, Western Australia. Other significant lenders to the company were the National Bank of Australasia Ltd (as it then was) and the Rural and Industries Bank of Western Australia.

Following default on the loan in 1982 the above-mentioned banks appointed receivers to the company, the assets of which have now been sold and substantially distributed.

In 1983 the Commonwealth successfully sued Dr Oskar under his personal guarantee of its loan and obtained a judgment for $1,910,520.80 plus costs.

The Western Australia Supreme Court made a sequestration order against Dr Oskar on 3 September 1984 on the Commonwealth's petition.

Dr Oskar is believed to have left Australia in May 1983 during the hearing of the proceedings relating to the guarantee.

The amount owing by him to the Commonwealth is still outstanding.

I have no direct knowledge as to any other amounts Dr Oskar may owe in Australia. I have no information as to Dr Oskar's financial liabilities in any other country.

(4) I have no information concerning any current Australian trading by Dr Oskar.

(5) I do not know.