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Wednesday, 13 August 2003
Page: 18431

Mr LATHAM (5:01 PM) —Mr Speaker, I raise with you a question of privilege. It relates to a doorstop interview that the member for Hume, Mr Schultz, gave this morning where he indicated as a member of the House of Representatives that there had been attempts by government ministers to silence him and to intimidate him. He said at the doorstop:

I am isolated at the moment. That is not surprising ... It is churlish behaviour. I am disappointed because I am part of a political party set up by Bob Menzies ...

He then went on to point out how ministers have tried to silence him and intimidate him. I understand, as he has set it out, that he issued a survey in his electorate about the full privatisation of Telstra and 96 per cent of his constituents oppose that particular policy proposal. It is an important matter of privilege when any member tells the press and tells the public there have been attempts by other members to silence and intimidate, particular as the member for Hume concluded his interview by saying that the full privatisation of Telstra could cause the deaths of some of his constituency. He said:

It is being done at the expense of proper use of money—

Dr Southcott —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

The SPEAKER —I remind the member for Boothby that I have a matter of privilege before me, which is hardly a matter to be dealt with flippantly. I hope he has a serious point of order.

Dr Southcott —Yes, Mr Speaker. I refer you to page 724 of House of Representatives Practice, where it has been held that a member may not raise a matter on behalf of another member. That is from House of Representatives Debates, 25 May 1955.

The SPEAKER —The member for Werriwa will conclude his remarks.

Mr LATHAM —I wish to conclude that quote following the interruption by the member for Boothby. The member for Hume was pointing out that this policy issue, the privatisation of Telstra, could lead to the deaths of some of his constituency. He said:

It is being done at the expense of proper use of money which sometimes is being used to pork barrel some of my parliamentary colleagues and I am not going to tolerate that ...

It is a serious issue when a member has complained, as he did this morning, about attempts to silence and intimidate him. I also note that he has not been listed for debate on the Telstra (Transition to Full Private Ownership) Bill 2003 on the list that has been distributed. It confirms my suspicion that the government is in fact silencing the member for Hume. There is an issue of privilege involved and I refer it you, Mr Speaker.

The SPEAKER —This is the second occasion this week on which an alleged matter of privilege has been brought to my attention. Few things are as important to the conduct of this House as the appropriate discharge of privilege. I will not have the matter dealt with flippantly. If the member for Hume believes that he has been in some way obstructed in his duties as a parliamentarian, he will be the one to raise a question of privilege with me. Insofar as the matter of a whips list is concerned, it has absolutely no bearing on this chair at all. I do not intend to refer the matter.

Mr LATHAM —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to clarify that I was not raising the matter in a flippant way. I raised it because the member has claimed to have been silenced in the House.

The SPEAKER —I can conceive of no circumstance in which the member for Hume would be unable to approach the Speaker on a matter such as this.

Mr LATHAM —I seek leave to table the transcript of the member for Hume's doorstop interview this morning.

Leave granted.

Mr Murphy —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I would like to ascertain when the general warning expires.

The SPEAKER —The member for Lowe will resume his seat or he may discover very quickly that in fact it survives until the House rises.