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Thursday, 17 October 1996
Page: 5763


Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that Senator Vanstone's use of the fabricated `Wright family' was to attack claims against family payments, parenting allowance, the child-care cash rebate, child-care assistance and the maternity allowance? Is he aware that she failed to correct the record as soon as her department advised her it was a fabrication and well past the time that Senator Newman's department had contested elements of it? Does he consider that Senator Vanstone has breached his ministerial code of conduct on honesty in public dealings and failed to immediately correct this fabrication in relation to his ministerial code of conduct?


Mr HOWARD —The answer to the last part of the question—


Mr SPEAKER —Order! Put those newspaper cuttings back where they belong.


Mr Downer —You had all morning to photocopy because you are in opposition.


Mr Tanner —There is a lot of photocopy, too. It takes all day.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The member for Melbourne will cease debate across the chamber, as will the Minister for Foreign Affairs.


Mr HOWARD —The answer to the honourable gentleman's question is no, I do not. I have examined this matter, and I can do no better than to quote from the first paragraph of a letter signed by Mr D.A. Hollway, who is the Secretary to the Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. He is an Australian public servant who gave very loyal and professional advice to the former government and was promoted under the present government.


Mr Crean —So you are passing the buck.


Mr HOWARD —I think it is an insult to Mr Hollway to say that buck-passing has occurred here. Let me simply read—

Opposition members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —Do you want the floor?


Government members —Name them!


Mr SPEAKER —I will take advice when I need it.


Mr HOWARD —I can do no better than to read the first sentence, which reads as follows:

I am writing to you direct on the matter of the "Wright family" because the fault clearly lies with the Department.

I repeat that—`because the fault clearly lies with the department'. The minister was misinformed, and any intelligent minister in a situation like that, having been misinformed, would have taken adequate time to be certain that she was in possession of all of the facts before making a statement to the Senate. It is an absolutely ridiculous claim by the member for Batman, and I totally reject it.


Mr SPEAKER —I call the member for Griffith.


Mr Martin Ferguson —Mr Speaker, a supplementary question.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I have called the member for Griffith.


Mr Kelvin Thomson —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: pursuant to standing order 321, the Prime Minister was quoting from a letter, and I ask him if he would table it.


Mr Howard —Yes, it is a letter which is on the public record. You can have it.


Mr SPEAKER —The document is tabled.