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Monday, August 11, 2008

Northern Territory Treasury guards royalty payments "in the public interest"

The Northern Territory is in the news following a surprisingly tight election on Saturday. As well, a rare Freedom of Information story made it into the Northern Territory News as a result of a Treasury decision to refuse a request for information concerning royalty payments from individual mining projects in the Territory. Hope the News received more detailed reasons for the knockback than "the information was exempt in the public interest."It sounds as if disclosure would also breach the Taxation Administration Act and the Mineral Royalty Act, a more compelling argument if true, but the end result is a lack of information about the use of publicly owned assets.

Apparently the issue isn't just one for the Territory :
"Executive director of the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies Michael O'Neil said the problem was the same in South Australia, with BHP Billiton's Roxby Downs uranium, copper and gold project. "There's been no public discussion of what is going to come back into Treasury,'' he said. "The end point is the community doesn't know whether it is getting value for money.''

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