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Thursday, 25 May 1989
Page: 2757

Senator CALVERT(9.08) —The Minister for Resources (Senator Cook) certainly knows his woodchips. I believe that he is going to leave the chamber in a moment, so I will be dealing with the Minister for Finance, Senator Walsh. I wish to return to the few queries I had concerning the tender for the Antarctic ship Aurora Australis. The Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories (Senator Richardson) announced the preferred tenderer before the contract had been negotiated. I think the Minister for Finance would know more about that than the Minister for Resources, who has just walked out. Is it normal business practice for someone to announce who is going to get the tender before anything is actually signed and final negotiations take place, with a resultant delay of six months while negotiations are going on, meaning that the tenderers, who have the great advantage of knowing that they are going to get the job, are able to screw the Government down to the point where they can obtain an extra $25m out of it? Surely the Minister does not believe that is normal practice? I asked a question, which was never answered: While this was going on, was a letter of intent sent to the prospective tenderers? I wanted to know who it was sent by, whether it was cleared by the Minister's office, and was that outside the terms of the Cabinet decision.