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Tuesday, 1 February 1994
Page: 4

Dr HEWSON —My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In the light of reports that the Australian Federal Police investigating the sandwich shop affair of the honourable member for Maribyrnong have uncovered evidence of criminal offences, and in the light of the commitment of the Prime Minister made on 22 January 1994 that he would arrange a full investigation by an independent person to determine whether the honourable member's conduct has met what the Prime Minister described as appropriate standards of ministerial behaviour, I ask: when will the independent inquiry begin; who will be the independent person to conduct the inquiry, and what will be the terms of reference for that inquiry?

Mr KEATING —I am surprised you are still here, actually.

  Opposition members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —Order!

Mr KEATING —I think the key question here is that all matters that have come to the government's attention which could possibly form the basis of criminal charges have been referred to the Australian Federal Police. As is intimated in the question, those investigations have been proceeding. Whether, in fact, police will actually lay charges is a matter for the police. Again, need I say, nobody should be jumping to any conclusions about whom those charges will be laid against.

  The honourable member for Maribyrnong saw me about this matter. There are twinned questions here of whether there have been breaches of the law, as well as an appropriate standard of ministerial behaviour. He was confident that he would not be found to be in breach of any laws, and because the question of his ministerial conduct is important to him, he asked me to appoint an inquiry covering all aspects of his ministerial conduct in these matters. This I have agreed to do. But there is a firm view, I think, on the part of the Australian Federal Police that it does not want an inquirer or an inquiry cutting across the investigations which it is making, obviously with some expedition.

  I take that view rather seriously, as I am sure does the honourable member for Maribyrnong, and at the appropriate moment I will be pleased to announce an inquirer or an inquiry into his ministerial conduct. Obviously, at that time I will announce who the person conducting the inquiry should be. The terms of reference will be wide enough to encompass all the issues relating to the conduct of the honourable member for Maribyrnong as a minister in relation to these matters.