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Thursday, 25 May 1989
Page: 2750

Senator CALVERT(8.34) —I shall try to keep any more questions for the Minister brief. In answer to my question about the commencement date for the new vessel, the Minister intimated that it could be between 15 December and 15 January, which is well into the season, and he indicated that another hire vessel would be used. Could he tell me the name of the vessel and how much it will cost?

As I said earlier, the delays were caused by the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories (Senator Richardson) interfering in the tendering process. The Secretary to the Department admitted that it was not a normal process for that Minister to announce the tender before contract negotiations have been completed. Senator Cook might think that I am being political but, to say the least, the whole exercise has been very extraordinary. The Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories admitted that he had attended meetings during the tender assessment and contract negotiation period and did not have a departmental officer with him. That would lead one to believe that there was something crook in Tallarook, to say the least. It is very irregular for lobbying meetings to be held during tender assessment. The Minister for Resources would have to agree with that. I am not saying that Senator Richardson did anything illegal, but in his haste to get this contract let to an Australian company in New South Wales he did not have a departmental officer with him so that he could protect not only himself but also his Department. Why not? Again, why did he announce the selected tenderer before negotiations had been completed? On top of that, I presume that it was he who authorised the Deputy Director of the Antarctic Division to sign a letter of intent to P and O before negotiations had been completed. I cannot be convinced that that is not irregular. Was not Senator Richardson advised by the Australian Government Solicitor about signing it?