What you need to know
- Nigel Scullion rejects allegations he asked the Indigenous Land Corporation to doctor critical report.
- New documents show Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) was asked to reconsider annual report.
- Nigel Scullion accuses ILC of wasting time in chasing inquiry into Ayers Rock Resort.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has again ruled out an official inquiry into the ILC's controversial purchase of Ayers Rock Resort near Alice Springs at just over $300 million.
It comes as documents made public by the ILC, a government body established in 1995 designed to help Indigenous people own more land, show it was asked to edit part of its annual report that was critical of the federal government.
An email from a government official to the ILC, dated January 12, asked the ILC "Board to reflect on and repudiate the inaccuracy in the report".
It then showed part of former ILC chairwoman Dawn Casey's foreword, which said Nigel Scullion "refused to initiate an inquiry" into the purchase of the Ayers Rock Resort in 2010.
“It’s highly unusual and it’s very concerning in terms of the lengths the [Indigenous affairs] minister has gone to in trying to not be transparent around the issue of the acquisition of Ayers Rock Resort,” Ms Casey told 'The Point'.
Controversial purchase loses millions
The decision by a previous board of the Australian Government's ILC to buy the Ayers Rock Resort has been considered controversial for years.
Bought for just over $300 million in 2010, it is now valued at around $200 million, a loss of over $100 million.
The loss of taxpayers’ funds in buying the resort is compounded by the fact the ILC will be paying the debt off for years.
A 2013 review by advisory firm McGrathNicol found the ILC paid above the market value for the resort, near Alice Springs, and found evidence of deep divisions and opposition to the purchase within the ILC.
But that review is not independent or powerful enough to find evidence of any wrongdoing or flaws in the resort’s purchase, according to Dawn Casey.
“We'd like to hear that he's [Mr Scullion] going to have an independent inquiry undertaken by a former judge,” she said.
Annual report stays untouched
After a delay, Minister Scullion eventually tabled the ILC’s report in parliament in January.
Freedom of Information documents show the ILC board had considered removing or editing Dawn Casey’s foreword but eventually settled on adding an extra message from current chair Edward Fry.
“These documents do not accurately reflect that I only requested that the ILC Board consider how it might respond to the inaccuracies in the former chair’s statement,” Nigel Scullion told NITV.
“Under the previous leadership, too much time was wasted and significant opportunities squandered while the ILC engaged in political games and conspiracy theories.
"I have no interest in revisiting any of this nonsense.”