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Wednesday, 25 March 1998
Page: 1281


Senator ABETZ (3:08 PM) —It is quite clear that the wheels have fallen off the Labor Party's smear wagon against Senator Parer. Day after day we have been subjected to these allegations against Senator Parer, none of which have stuck. What do they do now? They come out with a version of conflict of interest which is completely and utterly irrelevant to the ministerial code.

I have some questions in relation to the commentary provided by officials of the Senate in relation to conflict of interest, but that aside, that only relates to senators in relation to declarations in this chamber. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the ministerial code of conduct, which the Prime Minister wrote up and which the Prime Minister applies. We are talking about two completely different documents and two completely different scenarios. What Senator Faulkner, quite cleverly, has sought to do is to merge the two to try to make them into the one, and then further besmirch Senator Parer.

There are two things that Senator Faulkner does in his little repertoire—and there are only two things. He never has the facts, so we witness hysteria like we did on Monday and Tuesday of this week or he struggles through his speech without his heart being in it, as was quite obvious today. Indeed, the real Leader of the Opposition walked out of question time early and, I am sure, will not participate in this debate because he saw that the tactics were falling to pieces and he did not want to be associated with the sham with which the Labor Party were associated.

If the Labor Party were so genuine about conflict of interests, I wonder whether Senator Faulkner wrote to the good Clerk of the Senate or to the Committee of Senators' Interests, or indeed to people in the House of Representatives, to inquire whether there was some conflict of interest when a person who was then federal Treasurer of this country gained a loan from the Commonwealth Bank for a piggery that was basically impecunious. No, of course Senator Faulkner did not write then, and that was a clear case where somebody enriched themselves through their position. The Labor Party were deathly quiet on that. Yet they seek to besmirch Senator Parer when they have been unable to lay a glove on him.

If the Labor Party were genuinely concerned about ministerial ethics, they would explain to the Australian people why they still hold out Senator Nick Bolkus as an appropriate person to be the first law officer of this country—a person who, if Labor were to win office, would be in control of the Skase matter; indeed, as Attorney-General, would be in control of funding for the Federal Court. Do you know what he did? In breach of Federal Court rules, he leaked a confidential affidavit from the Federal Court. He got caught red-handed. This senate censured him for it. Every single person in this Senate, other than Labor Party senators, voted for that motion.

If you are so concerned about ministerial ethics, why is it that Senator Nick Bolkus is allowed to retain a position on the front bench of the Labor Party? It is because the leadership of the Labor Party is too weak to remove him. But if the people of Australia want a clear demonstration of the standards that would apply in relation to ministerial conduct were Labor ever to win, all they need to do is look at Senator Bolkus, who is allowed to leak, in breach of Federal Court rules, confidential documents which have the capacity to undermine our chase for the Skase assets, and he is allowed to continue on the front bench.

While Senator Nick Bolkus remains on your front bench, the opposition has no right to talk about ethics in any shape or form because the actions of the Labor Party speak a lot louder than their words during Senate question times.