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Monday, 3 March 1997
Page: 1071

Senator SHERRY —My question is to the Assistant Treasurer representing the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance. I refer to the Mid-year economic and fiscal outlook 1996-97 and to the corrigendum making 170 corrections to the range of data. On what date were those errors drawn to the attention of the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance? When was the corrigendum printed? Why was there a delay in its distribution?

Senator KEMP —I think this is about the fourth time we have had this question put to us. Senator Sherry is showing great concern. We do not make complaints about that. We have said that there were errors in the midyear review. We have brought those errors to the attention of the public. We have corrected those errors. Senator Sherry, if we had not corrected those errors, you would have been the first up and complaining.

You have asked a number of other questions—what was the date and so forth. I will bring those questions to the attention of the Minister for Finance and seek a response from him.

Senator Sherry —You get a copy of his briefs; why don't you know?

Senator KEMP —Senator Sherry, you were there on Thursday night when you had all the officers from the Department of Finance there. It was so important then—wasn't it, Senator Sherry?—that you did not even bother to raise the question. It was so important. You had officers there from the Department of Finance. You were being so pressed about it, that you never bothered to ask the question.

Senator Sherry, I wish to be helpful to you. You want some dates. You probably want some times, I guess. Do you?

Senator Sherry —No, just the dates are fine.

Senator KEMP —In that case, I will put those questions to the Minister for Finance. But it does raise the question why, with all those officers there on Thursday night, you never bothered to ask those questions. I can assume, Senator Sherry, that you did not bother to ask them because you did not think they were important. So you have raised them here. But it is all right, Senator Sherry, I will put them to the Minister for Finance and come back and advise you.

Senator SHERRY —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. Yet again, Senator Kemp, you continue to evade questions and refuse to answer them. Given the delay between the discovery of these errors and the distribution of the corrigendum last Thursday night, when it was tabled in the Senate, how does this square with the Prime Minister's now discredited code of ministerial conduct, which requires ministers to be honest in their public dealings, not to intentionally mislead the parliament or the public, and to correct any inadvertent misconception at the earliest opportunity?

Senator KEMP —Senator Sherry, I have not refused to answer your questions. I have said that I will get you the information that you are seeking. That is what I have said. I do not know whether I can explain it any more clearly to you. I am not refusing—

Senator Sherry —Why can't you answer the question?

Senator KEMP —Why did you not ask the question when we had all the officers there from the Department of Finance? We had them all there at the Senate estimates.

Senator Sherry —You covered it up.

Senator KEMP —You refused to ask them. You wandered all over the track and made a complete dope of yourself.

Senator Sherry —You were too embarrassed by it all. You covered it up.

Senator KEMP —Senator Sherry, you had your chance and you blew it, you missed it. So now you are coming back here. I will, as I said, put those questions to the Minister for Finance and seek a response. It is bad luck that you did not raise them last Thursday night when you had a very good chance to.