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Thursday, 14 June 2007
Page: 80

Mr RUDD (2:41 PM) —My question is again to the Prime Minister. I refer to the statement by the Australian Electoral Commission director for funding and disclosure, Mr Kevin Bodel, that the Prime Minister’s gift of the use of Kirribilli to the Liberal Party does appear to be a gift in kind. I also refer to Mr Bodel’s subsequent statement, in which he said, ‘Basically, I’ve now been told to shut up.’ Prime Minister, did any minister or any ministerial adviser contact the AEC yesterday on this matter? What did they say to the AEC? Prime Minister, why did the government seek to intimidate the AEC, Australia’s independent election watchdog?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the Leader of the Opposition for that question. Perhaps I can best answer it by reading a media statement released today by the Australian Electoral Commission.

Mr Bevis —Who wrote their lines for them?

Mr HOWARD —Oh, I see: we do not have an independent Electoral Commission anymore! This is what the statement says:

The AEC announced today it is examining if any potential disclosure obligation exists under the Commonwealth Electoral Act in relation to a function hosted by the Prime Minister at Kirribilli House.

The AEC has noted suggestions that the Government may have attempted to ‘silence’ or constrain the AEC responses to the media on this issue.

‘The AEC takes its integrity and independence very seriously and I want to make it quite clear that no attempt was made by the Government or anybody else to influence the AEC in its response to this issue,’ Electoral Commissioner, Mr Ian Campbell said.

‘Contrary to some media reports, the AEC Director of Funding and Disclosure, Mr Kevin Bodel was not asked by the AEC or the Government to “shut up” regarding these matters.’

The release goes on to say:

The AEC also confirmed today that it will examine a complaint by the federal Special Minister of State regarding the use of electoral roll information in connection with the ACTU and whether this may or may not be in accord with the Commonwealth Electoral Act.