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Monday, 25 May 1998
Page: 2955


Senator FAULKNER (3:07 PM) —by leave—I must say I interpret the minister's statement, and I heard most of the original statement by Senator Alston, much differently from the way Senator Murray has interpreted it. The opposition, through Senator O'Brien, a long time ago moved two returns to order for the production of documents in the Senate. Both of those found majority support amongst senators in the chamber and the government has consistently refused to comply with those orders of the Senate. Senator Murray's subsequent motion—which also found majority support within the Senate—for production of documents appears to me to have had a response that is not dissimilar to the one that was the government's approach to the first two motions that were agreed to that stood in the name of Senator O'Brien.

The point needs to be made that we have a situation where well in excess of $1 million of public money has been spent on a variety of reports and consultancies in relation to the waterfront. Those consultants' fees and those reports that have been produced for government, only a small proportion of which have been made available for senators to peruse, I think ought to be quite clearly made available for the benefit of the parliament and the benefit of the public.

We believe that the Australian people are entitled to see how the government has spent this money. We are very concerned about the use of taxpayers' money for what we believe is blatantly political market research, public misinformation and public relations campaigns. We believe that these consultancies, campaigns and reports ought to be made available.

Of the consultants to the government on the waterfront, we have had Mr Paul Houlihan, who is a former IR specialist with the National Farmers Federation and director of P&C Stevedores, and that consultancy was $20,000. We have had two reports from ACIL Australia, and the second ACIL Australia report included a number of subcontracts. Those subcontractors involve people like Mr Mark Textor, the Liberal Party polling consultant, and Jonathan Gaul of Canberra Liaison. We have the consultancy of Dr Stephen Webster on Mr Reith's staff, that of Dr John Davies and a range of other legal and media consultancies that have been paid for by taxpayers that have obviously been fundamental in the government developing its waterfront strategy. The opposition continues to say we are entitled to sight, given their significance in relation to public policy in this country and given their significance in the development of Mr Reith's and Mr Howard's strategy on the waterfront.

We do know at a minimum that at least $1,191,989 has been paid to a range of consultants for a range of consultancies that we know have been contracted by this particular government. We say that the vast majority of those that have not been made available for parliamentary and public perusal ought to be. I interpret Senator Alston's statement to the Senate very differently from Senator Murray. As far as the Labor Party is concerned, we have made it absolutely clear what our view will be. Contingent on the government's failure to provide this material, which we believe is in the public interest and in the parliament's interest—if that material is not provided—the opposition will be proceeding with its proposal to establish a select committee into why that material has not been provided and a range of other matters in relation to the waterfront dispute.