The government is seeking the advice of the Attorney General on legal action it can take to recover Australia Hall in Pembroke from the Labour Party, Parliamentary Secretary Jason Azzopardi said today.

Speaking in a Radio 101 interview, Dr Azzopardi said the historic building had in 1979 been transferred by a Labour government to the Labour Party on perpetual emphyteusis as part of a deal for an exchange of properties when the government took over the former Freedom Press in Marsa to use for Malta Shipbuilding.

However a condition of the deal was that Australia Hall had to be kept in a good state.

Unfortunately, Dr Azzopardi said, Australia Hall had been abandoned and was dilapidated.

Last October the Lands Department officially wrote to the PL asking it to take action to repair Australia Hall within three months, but nothing had been done, Dr Azzopardi said.

The government would therefore take legal action to revoke the emphyteusis.

Dr Azzopardi said that relatively recently the Labour Party sold other properties, also transferred to it by the government in 1979, to the St Michael Foundation for almost €600,000.

The PL was within its legal rights to do so, Dr Azzopardi said, but it should also have protected the historic property given to it, and not allowed it to fall into disrepair.

The history of Australia Hall goes back to the First World War when Malta was converted into a hospital centre and rest area for thousands of the wounded and sick from the Dardanelles campaign. Many recovered here but 202 Australians and 72 New Zealanders lie buried in Malta. During that period, the Australian Red Cross built the Australia Hall as a recreation centre for its co-nationals.

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