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Government to be quizzed over harbour clean-up.



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Senator Mark Bishop Shadow Minister for Defence Industry, Procurement and Personnel

Media Release

25th May 2006

ref:defipp.m&pr/017-06

Government to be quizzed over harbour clean-up

A push by the Federal Opposition to find out how much the Government is spending on a legal fight over the Port Albany Harbour case will begin in Canberra next week.

West Australian Senator Mark Bishop, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry, Procurement and Personnel found Defence has $57 million at its disposal for legal advice.

He will press the Government at Senate Estimates about how much of this annual legal budget it is prepared to spend in its battle to avoid paying for the clean-up of the harbour.

“As the judge in the case has stated, it will be the taxpayers bearing the cost of the clean-up of the harbour,” Senator Bishop said.

“With millions of dollars at its disposal for legal advice, I am concerned Defence is ‘dragging its feet’ through the courts - using taxpayers’ money - to prolong a resolution to this case.”

Albany Port Authority is suing the Commonwealth Government for up to $15 million to clean its harbour of old ordnance discovered during a port expansion in 2001.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Templeman, who is presiding over the case, said the Government does not have a defence in the matter and ordered copies of the court transcripts to be sent to Defence Minister Brendan Nelson.

Next week, Senator Bishop will directly ask the Government’s Senate representative how much the case has cost to date.

He will also follow up with a letter to Dr Nelson, asking for his response about the court transcripts and whether he is prepared to instruct his department to continue with the legal action.

Senator Bishop has already raised the Port Albany issue with the Minister. Then, it took five months for a response, which revealed it had not even carried out a survey for dangerous ordnance in Princess Royal Harbour. This is essential before any clean-up can start.

Senator Bishop was also told

• Pre-court mediation had failed to resolve the issue, despite Government protestations it did not want to proceed with legal action

• Any ordnance found in the harbour would be regarded as “potentially dangerous”

• The Government admitted if ordnance is found, “Defence will address … the resources for its removal”

Senator Bishop said it would be far preferable for the Government to put this money towards the cost of cleaning the harbour, rather than fighting its responsibility in the courts.

Media Details: Lydia Roberts 0415 374 983 Parliament House Office (02) 6277 3101