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Wednesday, 26 March 1997
Page: 2548

Senator CARR(4.25 p.m.) —I ask that motion No. 530 be taken as formal and that I be given leave to make a five-minute statement.

Leave granted.

Senator CARR —I move:

That there be laid on the table, no later than 7 pm on 26 March 1997, the Department of the Senate's travelling allowance claim forms of Senator Colston for claims made with respect to:

11 December 1993, 11 and 12 February 1994, 25 and 26 March 1994, 13, 14 and 15 May 1994, 5 August 1994, 19 August 1994, 3 September 1994, 23 September 1994, 11 and 12 November 1994, 13 December 1994, 4 February 1995, 24 and 25 March 1995, 12 May 1995, 2 and 3 December 1995, 30 September 1996, 7 October 1996, 30 June 1993, 31 July 1993, 1, 2 and 3 August 1993, 6, 7, 8 and 9 August 1993, 12 August 1993, 27 August 1993, 6 November 1993, 17 July 1993, 25 July 1993, 15 April 1994, 27 May 1994, 30 September 1995, 1 October 1995, 24 April 1996 and 8 June 1996.

This motion calls upon the Senate to provide copies of the TA forms that were the basis for Senator Colston's claims for payment of travel allowance. These forms indicate, I believe, that he personally has signed for those particular claims.

In Senator Colston's response to the two Senate reports that were tabled in this parliament two days ago, he made a number of points in defence of his claim that these matters were all questions of administrative error. They were bookkeeping errors, I believe he suggested. He said to the Senate by way of the tabled statements that he took information from his staff and on a regular basis filled in his TA forms. The response states:

I would regularly ask my office manager at the time for the dates of my travelling to place on my claims and I would transcribe those dates onto the claim form. In doing so I assumed that the dates which were given to me by my office manager were correct.

He says:

In the course of my investigation, I discovered that in numerous cases these dates were not correct.

He makes the proposition that he personally filled in these claims and, secondly, that on a regular basis he received information which he later found was incorrect. What we would like to see is in fact whether or not it was he who personally filled in those forms and, secondly, the dates on which those claims were actually made. I believe it would be a reasonable basis for this Senate to examine those claims based on the proximity of the actual travel that was claimed to the point at which he submitted those claims. If he filled in those claims at the end of a particular week in which that travel was undertaken it would be a reasonable proposition to put that he would have some recollection of what actual travel did occur.

I say that in the context of the other statements that have been made by Senator Colston in his defence. He says that he was a senator here who actually kept boarding passes to aircraft. He was a man who had records of such detail that he could ascertain which aircraft he travelled on by the boarding passes that he himself had collected. He also said in these documents that he would have to check the various other records that were made available to him—on the basis of DAS monthly reports and of course his own detailed knowledge of those particular events.

We know, and I think all senators here would appreciate, Senator Colston's particular expertise when it came to the issue of claims being made for travel allowance. It was understood, as he himself says in his defence and on the public record has stated, that he checked claims made with Senate staff.

Not only do we have his own expertise to measure what now appears to be his administrative errors but we also have the expertise available through the Senate staff, which he himself says he checked. This is a man who was meticulous in his record-keeping, he says, to the extent that he kept boarding passes of air travel. I also suggest to the Senate that this is a senator whose travel records have disappeared from the transport office. It is an extraordinary proposition. On 27 February it was reported by the AAP that his travel records disappeared from the transport office.

Senator Alston —Is that his fault?

Senator CARR —Senator Alston, you ask: is that his fault? It is on the public record that he was the only one who actually had access to them on that occasion. You asked the question, Senator Alston; you are entitled to the answer. Is it his fault? I put it to you, Senator, that he is the only one with access to those travel records. It is an extraordinary proposition that suddenly these records disappear when he is under such scrutiny.

We are making a fairly simple proposition. We are seeking that actual documents be provided by way of photocopies. I understand that in terms of proper legal proceedings, originals may well need to be kept. I also suggest that in relation to documents tabled here today, the Clerk's letter indicates that in terms of the Senate's requirement—(Time expired)

   Question put:

   That the motion (Senator Carr's ) be agreed to.