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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2542

Senator MICHAEL BAUME (10.45 p.m.) —Every time that breaches of the law by former half-owned piggery companies of the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) are revealed—the revelation of official material from the Australian Securities Commission or the New South Wales Land Titles Office, or the fact that prosecutions have been launched for pollution; whenever factual material is presented to this chamber or the other chamber—all that happens from the other side is non-stop personal abuse, particularly of me. Today it was Mr McLachlan who copped it. He showed how Mr Keating had misled the parliament by pretending that the environmentally sensitive Parkville piggery, where he had planned to have a multimillion dollar expansion program, had been found not guilty of pollution. The Prime Minister knew that to be totally false. He knew perfectly well that it was another of his piggeries, about 150 miles away—

Senator Calvert —Do you mean Paul's polluting piggery?

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Yes, the Paul polluting Keating piggery 150 miles away in Tamworth—a much smaller venture; not with the same environmental problems; not where the big expansion was to take place, where all the concerns about pollution were. Mr Keating set out to obfuscate this situation by saying that this area had been found not guilty. That was false and he knew it to be false.

  What was the Prime Minister's response to Mr McLachlan when Mr McLachlan pointed out that the Prime Minister had falsely tried to get himself out of this situation where his piggery, which he half-owned, is now being prosecuted? How did Mr Keating get himself out of that? By personal abuse and threats to Mr McLachlan. Over what? Because Mr McLachlan at one stage had been a director of a company which subsequently was found, after Mr McLachlan has left it, to have some problems which are presently before the courts.

Senator Robert Ray —Big problems.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Big problems. I accept the intervention. Is it not fascinating that their Mr Keating has absolutely nothing to say—no substantiation whatsoever; nothing to pin on Mr McLachlan. There are no facts—just the thuggery and standover tactics of threats. It is an empty threat but it is still a threat aimed at the press gallery; it is as threat aimed at trying to silence any critic. That is what has happened every time official documents relating to the piggery have been released on this side of the chamber. I have been subjected to this non-stop.

  Only recently when I raised some more facts I received more personal abuse. Let us look at the situation. The Prime Minister's agent, the man the Prime Minster entrusted with running his piggery—his 50 per cent partner—has received penalties for breaches of the corporations law. What happens when I raise this? I am attacked and Mr McLachlan is attacked. `You are smearing' and `This is unsubstantiated muckraking' are the phrases continually used about us.

  Is it not incredible that Mr Keating's partner has been on the receiving end of penalty notices and he has not paid them? They are over a year outstanding. Surely a Prime Minister who has some concern about the laws of the land would have ensured that the man acting as his agent, the man entrusted with putting in returns to the securities commission, would abide by them.

  One would think that the Prime Minister would do something about his agent having failed to abide by the law and having received penalties—in other words, money owing to the Commonwealth. But, not on your nelly. This Prime Minister was so indifferent to the need for the laws to be met, even after it had been pointed out repeatedly in this chamber that his company was in breach, that he did not even ensure that the penalties would be paid.

  This Prime Minister has never dissociated himself from any of the actions of his agent in this matter. There were breaches of the corporations law and dishonest and disgraceful returns which had to be corrected. They were false in material features and had to be corrected to the tune of multi-millions of dollars. Not once in all the times these matters have been raised has this Prime Minister dissociated himself from the illegal and improper actions of his agent, the man he entrusted with the running of his 50 per cent owned piggery. That man is Mr Achilles Constantinidis.

  How seriously can we take this Prime Minister who, one would have thought, would have had as a major duty the upholding of the law? After all, he makes the law. The least he could do would be to uphold it. He has been either totally unsuccessful in convincing his partner—while he was still a partner, because these matters all relate to when the Prime Minister was a half-owner of this piggery—or he did not even try.

  We have to ask: why has Mr Achilles Constantinidis been allowed by this government to get away without paying 13 penalty fines for offences against the corporations law, in failing to lodge company returns for Mr Keating's half-owned piggery group for up to two years after their due date? By the way, he lodged them only after the failure was revealed in the parliament. I wonder what sort of action the Attorney-General (Mr Lavarch) intends to take to ensure that the penalties imposed by the securities commission for breaches of the corporations law relating to accurate and timely annual returns are paid. Are breaches of the law by the Prime Minister's piggery company as exempt

from penalties as the Prime Minister's own breaches of the taxation law, which we all know about? I must say I am astounded—

The PRESIDENT —Order! The time has expired for the consideration of the question.