THE Commonwealth Government has maintained its support for an $800 million commercial space port on Christmas Island despite a series of setbacks that have beset the project since it was announced three years ago.
Federal Minister for the Territories Ian Campbell told WA Business News he had recently met with Australian proponent, Australia Pacific Space Centre, which indicated it was proceeding with the project.
“[They] acknowledged it has been a tough couple of months for them,” Senator Campbell said.
However, he said he was led to believe that the project was close to being backed by Korean investors and that APSC was now looking to start earlier than previously indicated.
The Federal Government has touted the project as a benefit to both Australia and Christmas Island and committed a $100 million investment incentive to assist the proponents with their plans – provided the centre goes ahead.
However, slow progress of the project has fuelled speculation over the ability of APSC to secure investment.
Uncertainty spiked recently when the Federal Opposition demanded the Government reveal the amount of money already given to the proponents.
The Government says none of the investment incentive has been paid to APSC yet.
More recently APSC has had to stave off its Sydney landlord who had applied for the company to be wound up.
The matter was settled out of court, however, a stir was caused in the Sydney Supreme Court last week when supporting creditor, the Australian Tax Office went ahead with a $166,000 claim.
During court proceedings the ATO was reportedly handed the money in the form of cash. The ATO, after deliberation, accepted the money.
While not denying the project will be “hard to get across the line”, Senator Campbell said it was important to support it and that taxpayers money would not be wasted.
Of the $100 million government assistance, $68.5 million has been designated to go towards Christmas Island’s infrastructure needs.
“If it all comes to nothing then at least we can not say we didn’t try,” Senator Campbell said.
He said he was also keen to see the run-down Christmas Island Resort and Casino reopened.
The complex was bought three years ago at a fire sale price by Soft Star Pty Ltd, a company linked to APSC managing director David Kwon, who said he planned to restore it to its former glory.
The resort and casino was once a significant employer and locals are angry that it has been allowed to remain dormant.
Senator Campbell said it would not take much for the resort to be fully reopened but the casino would require the appropriate approvals.
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