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Monday, 14 March 2005
Page: 146


Mr KELVIN THOMSON (10:30 PM) —I do not have time to outline here the many times the Prime Minister’s code of conduct has been broken by his ministers, or the long list of evasions, deceptions and half-truths that have characterised this government. But I want to address the lack of accountability of the Deputy Prime Minister and the other ministers and parliamentary secretaries caught up in the sorry tale of regional rorts that continues to unfold in this House and in the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee inquiry into the Regional Partnerships Program.

Last week in the Senate inquiry we saw an emotional witness thumping the table and asserting that he, and he alone, had thought up the need to press the member for New England to roll over and go and see the Deputy Prime Minister about a deal to give up his seat and be given one of the jobs for the boys. Yet in the same breath the witness, Mr Maguire, conceded that only a few days before his showdown with the member for New England he had held a 1½-hour, late-night meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister. And there is sworn evidence from three other witnesses that Mr Maguire, when he told the member for New England to roll over and see the Deputy Prime Minister about a job, was doing so on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister. It certainly looks that way.

But the Deputy Prime Minister will not front the Senate inquiry. No; instead, the hapless Mr Maguire is left thumping the table and claiming that he did not know it was a crime to offer an overseas posting in return for giving up a seat in this parliament. The buck was passed to Mr Maguire when the Deputy Prime Minister should have been held to scrutiny and called to give evidence under oath. But the noose is tightening in relation to this matter. We now know that in May last year Mr Greg Maguire had a 1½-hour meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister and Senator Sandy Macdonald in Tamworth.

Mr Maguire said that he brought up the subject of the member for New England, Mr Windsor, and that he and the Deputy Prime Minister talked about that for 20 minutes. Then, four days later—on 19 May—Mr Greg Maguire had a meeting with the member for New England, Mr Windsor, and two of Mr Windsor’s campaign officers: Ms Helen Tickle and Mr Stephen Hall. Mr Maguire stated that during this meeting he had been talking with Deputy Prime Minister Anderson and Senator Macdonald. He then told the member for New England that he should roll over and have a talk with the Deputy Prime Minister. Mr Maguire has admitted all of the above. And three of the four people present at the meeting say that Mr Maguire went further than that and said:

They—

Mr Anderson and Senator Macdonald—

are so desperate they would offer you anything—a diplomatic posting.

Ms Tickle said that Mr Maguire said at the time:

... Senator Macdonald was on the sidelines saying, ‘Yes, we can arrange anything.’

Given that Mr Maguire has admitted that he met with the Deputy Prime Minister a few days earlier and has admitted that he told Mr Windsor to roll over and talk to the Deputy Prime Minister, it beggars belief that, as he claims, he was on a frolic of his own in telling the member for New England to go and see the Deputy Prime Minister. It beggars belief that all of a sudden this idea had come to him, without any prompting from the Deputy Prime Minister or Senator Macdonald—especially when the other three witnesses expressly contradict him and say that he referred to a diplomatic posting.

This saga has all the elements of a cover-up after the event: a botched inducement with the perpetrators desperately covering their tracks after the offer became public. It is an offence, after all—so they cannot admit it. And while Mr Maguire said enough in his evidence to make it very clear that the member for New England was offered an inducement, his denials and other evidence are far from convincing. He told the Senate committee that the Member for New England thinks he should be Deputy Prime Minister, but subsequently he was unable to substantiate that. He told the Senate committee that he has known the member for New England since he entered state parliament but then said he did not know Mr Windsor personally. Mr Maguire told the Senate committee that Helen Tickle was a liar but then said that there was not a bad bone in her body.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. IR Causley)—I ask the member for Wills to withdraw the word ‘liar’. Even in a quote it cannot be used in the parliament.


Mr KELVIN THOMSON —I withdraw the remark. Mr Maguire told the Senate committee that he had donated thousands of dollars to state and federal campaigns for Mr Windsor but then could not produce any evidence to substantiate this. I challenge Mr Maguire to produce evidence of the campaign donations he claimed he has made to the member for New England. If he is to be taken seriously as a witness he must produce the evidence. And it is high time the Deputy Prime Minister submitted himself to questioning by the Senate committee instead of allowing Mr Maguire to take the rap and act as his fall guy.