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Thursday, 15 June 1989
Page: 4121

Senator BOSWELL(3.14) —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer.

The statement from the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories (Senator Richardson) varies a little from his previous statement when he said that he would either come in here and demand an apology from me or he would apologise himself. This is a complete backoff. The Minister is now playing for time. I pointed out very clearly in my statement of 26 May that an assessment was given to a company that could have paid up to $5m less in royalty payments to the Commonwealth. The Minister then came in here and said that that was rubbish. He said that the particular firm was a bigger company and, therefore, should have got the contract. He said that the rehabilitation was better, so it should have got the contract. He ran through a whole series of reasons why the particular company should have got the contract. He comes in here today and says that he is not quite sure and needs another week.

Senator Richardson —That is outrageous.

Senator BOSWELL —Senator Richardson can give it but he has to take it also. He cannot be like the collie dog. He can give it, but he cannot take it. On 26 May, which is almost a month ago, I made very serious charges that the Commonwealth had given an assessment to mine Christmas Island to a company that could have paid up to $5m less in royalties. Today, Senator Richardson comes in here and has the audacity to say, `Well, we are not really quite sure whether we did make a mistake'. He came in here on 26 May like a raging lion and he is now like a puppy dog. He was going to demand an apology and have me grovelling. The boot is now on the other foot, because the Minister has not met his deadline. There is still a very serious cloud hanging over his Department.

I believe that the Minister has misled, although not willingly, the Parliament on three or four occasions. I do not believe that it is the Minister's fault. He is being snowed by his Department. It has got him by the nose and is leading him around. He has played for time. The Minister knows that we are in the dying stages of this Parliament and that the Senate will rise tomorrow. The Minister has tried to bat out and play for time. I point out to him that there are a number of islanders waiting for some job opportunities to be created over on Christmas Island so that they can have some decent standard of living other than living on the dole. The Minister is not getting down to the issues here.

Three people were contracted to get the assessment for this mine. That was three or four months ago. I point out again that the Federal Court said about the assessment that it was political and was not conducted in the proper terms. That was an assessment made by a Federal Court judge. That is a very serious criticism of the Minister's Department. Yet he has not been able to find out what has happened in the last three months. Senator Richardson should take a little more care in administering his Department. I know that Christmas Island does not mean a great deal to him and that he is right into the environmental issues, but Australian citizens are over there wanting some sort of management of the Department that is administering their lives. The Minister is not giving it to them and should be condemned. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.