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‘MPs should probe Australia Hall case’

Labour was given Australia Hall in 1979 but let if fall into disrepair. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Labour was given Australia Hall in 1979 but let if fall into disrepair. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Parliament should probe the government’s decision to drop a court case against the Labour Party over a derelict, multi-million euro property, the Opposition has said.

Nationalist Party deputy leader Beppe Fenech Adami said yesterday the decision was “a scandal of the first order” and if the government had nothing to hide it would agree to the investigation.

The Land Department took the PL to court in 2010 in the wake of various warnings to keep the historic Australia Hall and former Raffles Disco in a good condition, as stipulated by a 1979 contract.

The property in St Andrew’s, Pembroke, was left abandoned for many years and the department had wanted to reclaim the site but, last month, on government instructions, it decided to withdraw the case.

Dr Fenech Adami said: “It is unheard of in a democracy that the government intervenes to stop the natural course of justice in order to advantage the political party in government.”

He said the government had to explain who decided to instruct the Commissioner for Land to drop the case.

Parliamentary Secretary Michael Farrugia, who is responsible for the department, on Monday refused to assume responsibility and said “the decision was taken by the government as a whole”.

Dr Fenech Adami said the Public Accounts Committee should look into the matter to uncover all the facts and “abuses”, including why the Land Commissioner, who had initially instituted the case, changed his mind.

PAC agendas are normally agreed by consensus and Labour would have to consent for the investigation to begin.

The property was worth many millions of euros and dropping the case opened the door for Labour to speculate further with this government property, he said.

The PN’s spokesman for planning, Ryan Callus, asked whether the recent Malta Environment and Planning Authority decision to include Pembroke in its tall buildings policy was related to Labour’s ownership of government property in that area.

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