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Thursday, 26 June 2003
Page: 17642

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (11:09 AM) —Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. D.G.H. Adams)—Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON —Yes, very grievously.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Please proceed.

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON —I cite the Australian newspaper's report this morning in relation to allegations made by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. That article cited a statutory declaration and a comment by the minister that I had been engaged in `a campaign of racial vilification'. I would like to make the following points. In relation to the latter, the minister withdrew that comment. My record with regard to interaction with the Lebanese and broader Arabic community is on the public record. The minister did not say that he had a statutory declaration; he used the phraseology that he had corroboration and `the words of Mr Ahmed El Dirani' to essentially reinforce the allegations by Mr Kisrwani and Mr Abbott. So I want to clarify those two points at the outset.

I now turn to a Sydney Morning Herald article by Cynthia Banham and Mark Riley, which goes to the credibility of Mr Abbott's tales. There, the alleged correspondent in the material he read to the parliament yesterday said to the Sydney Morning Herald reporters that a recent brain haemorrhage had affected his memory—that is, the memory of the source of the minister's allegations. This is further evidence that these claims, centred upon the hearsay of Mr Kisrwani, are without foundation. Mr Kisrwani and the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations are relying on a person who, as I say, has serious problems. I turn to a further point: he claimed that he went to a meeting in October 2001. There is no record whatsoever that he attended a meeting in 2001. This is another memory problem that the individual has.

Mr Brough —Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Taking a matter with regard to being misrepresented allows you to point to where you have been represented, not to enter into argument. I draw your attention to the fact that the shadow minister is in fact entering into argument and is not simply pointing out where he believes he has been misrepresented in the appropriate newspapers.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —I ask the member for Reid to show the House where he has been misrepresented.

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON —The other misrepresentation is around a meeting in October 2001. There is no evidence for this whatsoever, although I readily concede that this gentlemen attended a meeting 2½ years previously—one meeting of the Australian Labor Party.