Save Search

Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 13 February 2002
Page: 194


Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (3:32 PM) —I seek leave to make a personal explanation as I claim to have been misrepresented.

Leave granted.


Senator FAULKNER —I would like to refer to an article that appeared in the Courier-Mail newspaper on Tuesday of this week, entitled, `Besieged Somlyay claims bribe bid.' I would like to quote four paragraphs of that article and then set the record straight. Part of that article says this:

Mr Somlyay was a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters which in 2000-2001 held public hearings into electoral fraud.

A transcript of the committee's Townsville hearing on January 29 last year, confirms that Labor committee member John Faulkner had obliquely referred to Mr Somlyay's enrolment issue.

Mr Somlyay said he had a private conversation about his family enrolments with Senator Faulkner during a break in the hearing.

He said Senator Faulkner had accepted his version of events and said he would not pursue the issue because it had been leaked to him (Faulkner) from Liberal Party sources.

In an interview with the Courier-Mail on Sunday Senator Faulkner attacked Mr Somlyay's enrolments but later withdrew his comments when he recalled this private conversation.

That is what the article in the newspaper said, but this is the truth: all comments in the Courier-Mail newspaper on that and preceding days about matters relating to Mr Somlyay's enrolment were made by a spokesman of mine and not in a direct interview with me. No-one could jump to that conclusion from reading this article. At first request to respond to a Sunday Mail article on 10 February, journalist Brendan O'Malley was told by my spokesman that neither I nor the spokesman had seen the article and that the spokesman could only speak generally. Mr O'Malley was formally provided with the following lines which I would like to read into the Hansard for the record:

Mr Somlyay is a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. He has a good knowledge of the electoral laws. Given the issues raised by the Sunday Mail, Mr Somlyay should clarify details, including who witnessed the enrolment forms for his family. These current allegations have been raised for internal Liberal political purposes.

Those are the quotes that were given on my behalf by my spokesman to the Courier-Mail. It then transpired that Mr Somlyay, as he is absolutely entitled to, had some contact with the journalist, and I think he indicated, as he is absolutely entitled to do, that I had discussed this matter with him at a Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters meeting. All of that did occur. As a result of that, because Mr Somlyay had indicated to a journalist that I had had a private discussion with him—I had, and I have no problem with Mr Somlyay saying that; it is true, I had had a private conversation with him—I asked my spokesman to change my comment. The thing was this: I was not going to say that I had had a conversation with Mr Somlyay. I never talk about the content of private discussions I have with anyone, be they in the Labor Party, be they in the Liberal party or be they Callithumpian, and I do not even say that I have had those discussions. That is the way it works, and everyone in this chamber—on both sides—knows that I do not make public the content of private discussions.

After Mr Somlyay had indicated that I had had a private conversation with him— something he is entitled to do and with which I have no problem—I did ask my spokesman to change my comment, because it had become public that there was a private conversation. I asked my spokesman to change my comment to this—this is my formal comment:

Mr Somlyay raised the matter in a private discussion during a committee hearing, and I accepted his explanation at face value.

That was my comment. Another journalist, Chris Griffith who wrote the article, `Besieged Somlyay claims bribe bid,' rang on Monday and asked for a comment regarding this matter. He was provided with the same comment as the previous journalist had been on Sunday:

Mr Somlyay raised the matter in a private discussion during a committee hearing, and I accepted his explanation at face value.

The truth of this matter is: I did have a private discussion with Mr Somlyay. I would not normally say that in the parliament but because Mr Somlyay has seen fit—again I have no problem with this—to say that to a journalist, and it is an accurate statement on his part, and to make that public, I saw fit to change the comment I made otherwise my previous comment may have appeared disingenuous or in some way covering up. I wanted to be very frank with all the people concerned, and I was. All my statements were absolutely frank, absolutely accurate, absolutely proper.

It is true that I had a private discussion with Mr Somlyay. It is true that I did accept his explanation at face value. The rest of the issue is for others and not for me. I stress: I did not do an interview with the Courier Mail on Sunday. I did not attack Mr Somlyay's enrolments though my spokesman did provide the comments in precisely the terms I have outlined to the Senate. One paragraph in the article states:

In interview with the Courier Mail on Sunday Senator Faulkner attacked Mr Somlyay's enrolments but later withdrew his comments when he recalled this private conversation.

That reflects poorly on me, in the circumstances, when I have had no direct contact with these journalists and when the truth of the matter is as I have outlined to the Senate. On these occasions—and I do not do it often—I think it is best to correct the public record at the earliest available opportunity.