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Thursday, 25 May 1989
Page: 2763

Senator WALSH (Minister for Finance)(9.44) —I am advised that the letter of intent was certainly acknowledged by the Minister. I have been asked what seems to me to be the same question I have been asked before; that is, was it outside the terms of the Cabinet decision? I do not believe so. The advice I have from the officers is the same. One of the earlier questions was about the contract or acceptance tender from P and O Steam Navigation Co. My recollection of the Cabinet discussions at the time-it has however been confirmed by the officers here-was that the Commonwealth's dealings were with P and O. Whoever actually built the ship was P and O's affair rather than the Commonwealth's per se. I am advised that the TNT tender was included on the list so that there would be one wholly Australian tender for Cabinet discussion should Cabinet have decided to give particular preference to an Australian firm.

Senator Calvert —What about the Western Australian firm, ASI?

Senator WALSH —It has just been confirmed that TNT was the lowest Australian tender received.

Senator Calvert —That was after they received the subsidy from the New South Wales Government though, was it not?

Senator WALSH —I do not know anything about a subsidy from the New South Wales Government.

Senator Calvert —So there wasn't a subsidy?

Senator WALSH —I do not know whether there was or not but I do not believe it would have been relevant for the Commonwealth Government to consider whether the lowest tender to the Commonwealth from a wholly Australian supplier was included on the list and whether that tender was lower because somebody else had paid or was willing to pay a subsidy. I do not know whether that is correct but I do not believe it would have been considered to be important by the Commonwealth had we chosen to accept the Australian company's tender nor in my opinion should it have been considered important by the Commonwealth.

Senator Calvert —Wasn't the ASI's price the best price? They offered the best price and then Carrington received a subsidy from the New South Wales Government.

Senator WALSH —I have just been told that Australian Shipbuilding Industries (Western Australia) Pty Ltd (ASI) did not tender. The contractor could have approached ASI to construct a ship but ASI did not submit a tender.