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Wednesday, 25 March 1998
Page: 1266

Senator FAULKNER —My question is directed to Senator Parer, the Minister for Resources and Energy. Minister, do you recall that you told the Senate yesterday in relation to the QCMM Group (ESP):

I have never had any involvement in what that company puts money into . . . I have no control over it and never have had any control over it—

Minister, isn't it actually true that on at least eight occasions you chaired meetings of QCMM Group (ESP) which discussed allotting 1,000 employer shares to AQRM, putting money into Bruce Resources, the impact on ESP shares of Tomen's takeover of AMI and which authorised you to sign off on the annual financial statements? Do you still maintain, as you said yesterday, that you have no involvement and no control? Minister, why did you mislead the Senate again? Will you now correct the record?

Senator PARER (Resources and Energy) —Here we have a regurgitation of this over and over again. You are at the bottom of the barrel, Senator. What I said is that I had no involvement in the decision making process, certainly in relation to the time that I got out of it. I had very little involvement in the past. Certainly for the official returns you have to sign off on them. Let me also say, because I suspect there will be some more questions coming from the other side, that this was set up as a retirement type fund.

During the debate on matters of public interest Senator Cook came in here and tipped a bucket, or tried to tip a bucket all over me. Normal courtesies in this place are—whether you do it in a public interest debate or an adjournment debate—that you let the other person know that you are going to do it. All I can say is that you people on the other side have sunk to absolute lows.

Senator Faulkner —Madam President, I raise a point of order. I asked Senator Parer a direct question about a statement that he made to the Senate yesterday which I believe was a deliberate and serious misleading of the Senate. Senator Parer may well want to respond to something else that was said at another time. There are plenty of opportunities, as you are aware, Madam President, that he can take if he cares to do so, not the least of which is a personal explanation at the appropriate time. But I do think on this occasion you ought to direct the minister to answer what is a very serious question that I have directed to him about his misleading the Senate yesterday.

Senator Alston —Madam President, on the point of order: an even much more serious matter is Senator Faulkner's consistent use of points of order to effectively impugn the integrity of other senators. His question was: why did you deliberately mislead the Senate yesterday? He then got up and said that he believed that Senator Parer had deliberately misled the Senate. He is simply using points of order as a vehicle for saying things that are quite contrary to standing orders. That should not be allowed. There is no point of order, of course. He does not even purport to have one because Senator Parer has not even started to answer the question. He is simply abusing the processes of this place and he should not be allowed to continue.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Parer has been answering the question, and I do not know whether anything that Senator Cook raised relates to this or not. So I cannot comment on whether the remarks arising from that are relevant to this answer or not. I would draw Senator Parer's attention to the question that has been asked of him.

Senator PARER —Everyone knows in this particular chamber—and, from the scurrilous campaign waged by Senator Faulkner and others, I assume everyone in Australia knows—that I was on the board and was chairman of the Queensland Coal Mine Management companies and all subsidiaries. They also know that when I was appointed as a minister I resigned from those and had no involvement whatsoever in the operation of either the Queensland Coal Mine Management company or its subsidiaries. The people on the other side tried to run the line that I did. They said that I went to Japan. There was a scurrilous article in the Sydney Morning Herald that said I had met with one of the major trading companies and, as a result of that, additional coal sales contracts. The dope who wrote that did not even realise that the group I spoke to do not buy coal. They are a trading company.

Senator Robert Ray —Sue him because we were not behind that one.

Senator PARER —Good idea, Senator Ray. Then they were running the line saying, `Have you met with Mr Shand? What did you talk about?' That has been totally debunked. You are running this technical question saying that I somehow misled the Senate deliberately. I can assure you, Senator, I did not. The point I made yesterday was that I had no involvement, and the implication is since I actually resigned from those boards. Naturally I did because I was there up until that time and everyone knows that.

Senator FAULKNER —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, yesterday you said to the Senate—let me quote you again:

I have never had any involvement in what that company puts money into . . . I have no control over it and never have had any control over it—

Now you are reinterpreting that answer. You do accept that that was a mislead yesterday, do you, Senator Parer? Do you stand by your statement, Senator Parer, of yesterday in question time?

Senator Patterson —Madam President, I raise a point of order. I ask that you direct Senator Faulkner to direct his questions through you and not scream them across the chamber at Senator Parer.

The PRESIDENT —Questions should be addressed to the chair.

Senator FAULKNER —I ask the minister whether he stands by his statement yesterday:

I have never had any involvement in what that company puts money into . . . I have no control over it and never have had any control over it—

Minister, do you stand by your statement in question time yesterday?

Senator PARER (Resources and Energy) —I stand by the statement that I have made over and over again that I was involved with those companies up until the day I was appointed a minister. I resigned all positions and have had no involvement with them whatsoever since.