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Monday, 25 August 1997
Page: 5549


Senator FAULKNER —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Given that the Prime Minister's code of conduct requires that `Ministers must not engage in any professional practice', how is it that, according to an answer I have just received to my question on notice No. 678, the Prime Minister has approved arrangements which allow the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs to continue practising surgery? Minister, will you table for the benefit of the Senate a copy of those arrangements?


Senator HILL —I did not think there was anything secret about this. This was an arrangement that was entered into early in the term of this government when it was recognised that Senator Herron, if he did not engage in a minimum surgical practice, would simply lose his capacity to perform that role in the future. And that would be an unjust situation.

Senator Schacht interjecting


Senator HILL —I would have thought, Senator, you would recognise that to be totally unjust. That was the arrangement which was reached at that time. As I understand it, it is no more than is necessary to enable Senator Herron to maintain these skills that are necessary for that task. I did not think there was any secret about it. But if there was a statement made at the time, I will search the records and bring it to the attention of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.


Senator FAULKNER —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. I referred the minister to an apparent discrepancy between the Prime Minister's code of conduct and the answer I received. I did ask you, Minister—and I will ask you again—if you will table a copy of those arrangements. I would also refer you to the fact that, in his answer to my question on notice, Senator Herron states, `I have incurred an operating loss during this period because of the cost of retaining rooms for such a limited practice.' Minister, I would also like you to assure the Senate that Senator Herron has not written off this loss against his personal income for taxation purposes.


Senator HILL —I used to be a tax lawyer and I could attempt to answer that, but I think Senator Herron's taxation arrangements are his own business. I really do not want to engage in that debate. If Senator Faulkner is seeking the arrangements that were entered into between the Prime Minister and Senator Herron, then I will seek a copy of those and provide him with a copy. But what he said is consistent with what I said. This was an arrangement to enable Senator Herron to maintain the basic skills of his profession, which is a reasonable application and interpretation of the code, the details of which I recall having in this Senate about 12 months ago when I thought the matter was topical. If Senator Faulkner has taken 12 months to catch up with the matter, I am sorry about that, but I have failed to continue to bring the brief. However, I will inquire further and see if I can help further.