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Monday, 24 March 1997
Page: 2726


Mr SERCOMBE —My question is directed to the Minister for Sport, Territories and Local Government representing the Minister for Communications and the Arts. I ask whether he recalls attacking the Commonwealth Ombudsman when he said:

Could Phillipa Smith have cut her own costs by perhaps living in Canberra instead of commuting to Sydney all the time?

Is it a fact that taxpayers, through Telstra, funded accommodation for the former Telecommunications Ombudsman in Melbourne, his air fares to and from his home in Launceston and travelling allowance?


Mr Leo McLeay —That was him.


Mr SERCOMBE —Was that you, Minister?


Mr SPEAKER —You will address your question or resume your seat.


Mr SERCOMBE —Minister, do you have any objections to your departmental secretary approving the payment of $17,000 per annum tax free to himself for accommodation expenses in the same way Max the Axe has done?


Mr WARWICK SMITH —I am surprised at the question, but let me make one point. There is a vast difference between a statutory ombudsman and an industry ombudsman. You should be careful in pursuing a line of questioning which may elicit a response that you may not expect. On the issue you relate of my departmental secretary getting access to travel allowance, any access by a departmental secretary to travel allowance is in accordance with the rules.