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Wednesday, 3 May 1989
Page: 1680

Senator BOSWELL —I refer the Minister representing the Minister for the Arts and Territories to Mr Robert Yeomans's assessment of Christmas Island mining proposals, which recommended that the Government negotiate with Elders Resources Ltd. Did Mr Yeomans's assessment acknowledge that a consortium of substance, the Booth consortium, was offering the same net payment and more in royalties than Elders Resources? Is the Minister aware that, at current market prices, the Booth proposal could result in the Government's obtaining approximately 30 per cent more in royalties than for Elders' best case and at least 200 per cent more than in Elders' worst case? Does the Minister stand by his answer to my question on notice that Mr Yeomans recommended that proposal which would best maximise returns to the Commonwealth through both net payment and royalties, and acted in accord with the Attorney-General's Department's advice?

Senator RICHARDSON —Certainly I stand by that answer. Mr Yeomans was, of course, making an independent assessment. It was not an assessment that was directed by the Government and I thought at the time and still believe that that was the correct procedure. I would not have thought that there would be any real question as to procedure. I think what the senator is questioning, then, is the result of the procedure. It would seem to me that, if the Government agrees that an independent assessor ought to be appointed to perform a task such as the one that Mr Yeomans performed on Christmas Island, it is the responsibility of the Government to get out of the way and allow the assessor to get on with his or her job. In the case of Christmas Island, I am confident that Mr Yeomans performed his task competently, and the Government has seen no reason to regret his recommendation or its acceptance of it.