Millions in lurch amid confusion over who owns Rattler
A RULING that the Mary Valley Rattler was eligible to receive Jobkeeper payments has opened a can of worms, throwing into doubt years of claims of council ownership and raising questions about who actually owns its assets.
The Rattler Railway Company asked the Australian Taxation Office to review its eligibility in August amid concern it was ineligible for the payments and at risk of forfeiting $141,000 it received, a bill the council may need to foot.
The Jobkeeper legislation specifically excludes companies wholly owned by local governing bodies.
The ATO's ruling, as provided by the RRC general manager Micheal Green, identified the train as a company limited by guarantee and that the RRC "does not have any entity that owns it".
It ruled that none of the RRC's members, including Gympie Regional Council, have ownership interests in the company and the council "is not considered to wholly own the Rattler".
This ruling appears to be directly at odds with numerous claims of "whole ownership" by Gympie Regional Council in recent years, including in the 2016 business case for the train's return and in response to questions about a letter of comfort given to financially support it.
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The RRC has likewise made the claim in financial reports for 2018 and 2019, signed by director Gary Davison and the Queensland Audit Office, and in a joint statement with the council in 2019, following inquiries into the relationship between the organisations.
The ATO's ruling has also put into question the RRC's asset ownership, and what happens to those items if the company was to be wound up.
Under the RRC's constitution, adopted by all councillors except Mayor Glen Hartwig in 2017, any assets left "must not be distributed among members".
"If the RRC was dissolved or wound up the constitution requires that the remaining property is to go to another fund, authority or institution with objectives similar to the RRC; the fund must have DGR (deductible gift recipient) status," Mr Green said.
"The directors are to decide which fund will receive the property."
The question now being asked is what does the company own?
Numerous items transferred to the RRC were reportedly given over with a provision they revert to the council's ownership if the RRC was to wind up.
Mr Green said yesterday the question of ownership was still being discussed following the ATO ruling.
"Further conversations with the RRC membership, including the Gympie Regional Council, are continuing around the detail of the constitution and the original set up of the business structure," Mr Green said.
Council CEO Shane Gray said the council was taking a closer look at how the train had been set up.
"We are currently reviewing the Rattler and the history and actions which lead to our current circumstances," Mr Gray said.
"We are currently investigating and looking into all aspects of the Rattler.
"Once we have a firm understanding and direction, we'll release all appropriate information to both media and our residents."