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Tuesday, 30 September 1997
Page: 8745

Mr ANDREW —My question is addressed to the Acting Minister for Administrative Services. Has the minister seen media reports today that a staffer of the Leader of the Opposition has incorrectly used a Dasfleet vehicle? Has the minister requested his department to investigate such matters?

Mr RUDDOCK —Mr Speaker—

Mr Brereton —Why don't you tell us the answer to the question I asked you last week?

Mr RUDDOCK —You will have an answer. Given the seriousness of the allegations made by Glenn Milne last night and in the media this morning, I did ask my department—

Mr Kerr —What about the ones asked in the parliament over a week ago, which you have not answered?

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Denison!

Mr RUDDOCK —Not to me, it was asked on Thursday.

Mr Martin Ferguson —It was to you—last week.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Batman!

Mr RUDDOCK —You said it was `over a week ago'. I said you will receive an answer in relation to that.

Mr Martin Ferguson —So that is not as important?

Mr RUDDOCK —I did ask my department to advise me on this matter, and I know the Leader of the Opposition was interested in this question himself. The department has paid an invoice in relation to car hire by a staff member of the Leader of the Opposition for a period of 22 days from 4 October 1996 to 26 October 1996. The value of the invoice was $1,110.25. The booking indicated that the car would be picked up and returned—

Mrs Crosio —And there is $65,000 for a charter? You have to be joking!

Mr SPEAKER —Order!

Mr RUDDOCK —The booking indicated the car would be picked up and returned to Parramatta. The formal brief—and I dare say I will be asked to table it, so I will read from it so you might be aware of it—had this to say:

The investigation has centred around the date of the by-election for Lindsay, which was held on 19 October 1996. The Ministerial and Parliamentary Services, MAPS, processes car hire invoices on the basis that there has been an approved authorised booking made by a senator or a member. Invoices were forwarded to MAPS by Dasfleet. Simultaneously, a copy would be referred to the senator or member for the certification to MAPS. An invoice would be paid unless it was clearly outside the terms of the entitlement. There is no record of a payment authorisation from the Leader of the Opposition in this instance.

At the end of each month, the management report is referred to the minister or office holder which details the travel undertaken. This gives the opportunity for an office to raise questions in respect of any payment made.

For the Leader of the Opposition, staff need to be authorised to use self-drive vehicles for official purposes. This is detailed in the office holders' entitlement issued by David Jull, the Minister for Administrative Services, following clearance by the Prime Minister's office in March 1996.

The relevant clause is:

Self-drive cars: when travelling on official duty, staff may also use short-term self-drive cars hired through Dasfleet, provided that the hire is for no more than 10 days duration. Self-drive cars may not be used in Canberra or in the city where the member's or the minister's state or electorate office is located. This administrative arrangement is identical to that in operation under the former government.

Then it gave me the details, which I have already quoted. The car was in fact booked for a short period but was retained for a larger period.

I think this does raise quite significant questions for the Leader of the Opposition, and I would like to pose a couple of them to him. Why was the car leased for more than twice the period that was allowed? Was it used for official business or was it used for electioneering on behalf of the ALP? Why were no queries made about the Commonwealth making the payment? Have there been any other irregularities in the leader's accounts? These are questions that the leader himself has to deal with. He cannot shrug it off, and I think it needs to be said that he should follow his own injunction: if Labor people are rorting, Labor people should go.

I understand from the invoice that the staff member involved is a Miss Horne. I understand she is an assistant adviser to Mr Beazley on his staff here in Canberra, and I understand she did not take leave during the relevant period.