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Wednesday, 29 November 2000
Page: 20122

Senator CONROY (2:20 PM) —My question is to Senator Kemp, the Assistant Treasurer. Can the minister confirm that the Prime Minister's former staff tax adviser, Mr Chris Jordan, personally directed that the PR firm of Jackson Wells Morris be engaged on a $200,000 taxpayer funded contract to advise Mr Jordan on GST related media appearances in his part-time role as Chairman of the New Tax System Advisory Board? Can the minister inform the Senate of precisely how proper contracting process was followed in this case of one former staffer of Prime Minister Howard arranging to channel a continuing $200,000 taxpayer funded contract in the direction of another prime ministerial staffer, this time Mr Graeme Morris, the disgraced former chief of staff?

Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) —What an extraordinary question! When you pick up your morning papers, you see headlines about ALP scandals, ALP rorts and money in envelopes being passed to people. One of the troubles with the Labor Party is that they assume that others act in the same miserable, low way in which they act on a lot of issues. Senator Conroy, you should not assume that we follow the same standards as the Labor Party. The Labor Party's standards are now being exposed in the press, as are your own activities in Victoria, Senator Conroy. It is extraordinary to get this sort of question from the Labor Party. These questions were raised by Senator Conroy during Senate estimates. My memory of the answers which were given to Senator Conroy by Dr Hagan—

The PRESIDENT —Senator Ray, I call you to order.

Senator KEMP —Thank you, Madam President. It is very hard to answer questions while there is calling out from the other side. These questions were fully canvassed and answered by Dr Hagan during Senate estimates. I refer you to the answers which were given to you by Dr Hagan. You failed utterly in your very tedious questioning to establish the point which you have now asserted. Also, Graeme Morris' name has been raised. Graeme Morris is a person of great talent. Those talents have been displayed over a long period. So again we have another attack, another assertion.

There was one particularly interesting exchange with Senator Conroy in the Senate estimates. I said to the senator, `If someone has had a particular association with a political party, does that automatically preclude that person from being employed at some later date by a government of the same colour?' I asked Senator Conroy whether that was the point he was making. Senator Robert Ray raised a similar issue in Senate estimates. Senator Conroy failed to answer that question. Then I asked whether, in any way, he could establish that the services provided by this particular body were not provided well and effectively and that they did not do the job for which they were paid. Again, Senator Conroy failed to answer. So we are seeing here the typical smear that we see from the Labor Party. The Labor Party is under attack all over Australia for its quite disgraceful behaviour.

Senator KEMP —Yes, Senator Ludwig, they are, right over Australia. It is not only confined to Queensland. (Time expired)

Senator CONROY —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister confirm that Mr Jordan is being paid $150,000 for his part-time services as Chairman of the New Tax System Advisory Board? Isn't it the case that the Howard government has insisted on portraying Mr Jordan as a so-called independent tax expert from KPMG, when it is clear that he is far from independent? Can the minister show anywhere on the public record where the government has referred to Mr Jordan as a former Howard staffer? Doesn't the public have a right to know about this cloud over Mr Jordan's independence?

Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) —Of course Mr Chris Jordan is an independent expert. Again, Senator Conroy has failed to establish that Mr Chris Jordan has not performed his duties in a fully effective manner. You have never been able to establish that. In fact, in some ways his performance was described at the Senate estimates committee as outstanding. The only thing I would say to Senator Conroy is that again I call on the Robert Ray principle, which used to govern the behaviour of the Labor Party. Senator Conroy, if you want to make those comments about Mr Chris Jordan, why don't you trot outside and make them? Madam President, I predict that he will not do it, in exactly the same manner as Senator Cook would not. (Time expired)