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Monday, 22 August 2011
Page: 5011

Member for Dobell


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South Wales) (14:51): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Senator Evans. Is the minister aware of reports in Friday's Sydney Morning Herald that Craig Thomson, whilst travelling in Melbourne on union business, made three separate phone calls to three different escort agencies, called Young Blondes, Confidential Models and Bad Girls? Does the minister believe it to be appropriate that a union leader travelling on union business should be making telephone calls to escorts on his hotel room account funded by the union?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:51): I have not read Friday's Sydney Morning Herald and there is nothing in that question that relates in any way to my responsibilities as a minister.


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South Wales) (14:52): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware of reports in today's Daily Telegraph that the member for Dobell spent $30,000 on travel and hotels for his ex-wife, $2,050 on sporting memorabilia, $1,893 on whitegoods, $175 on Margaret River wine and $354 at Strand Bags? Does the minister agree that it is inappropriate for union bosses to spend union funds which belong to union members in this way?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:52): I am aware of today's Daily Telegraph article—I did have an opportunity to read it. As I have indicated before, these questions do not in any way go to my ministerial responsibilities, but I would remind the senator that in terms of investigations about whether or not the Health Services Union funds have been used appropriately, there is an ongoing investigation by Fair Work Australia. They will obviously investigate any matters which they think are of concern or have been raised with them. They will follow the normal processes available to them in pursuing that investigation and taking appropriate action as they see fit. In terms of their investigation, it would not be appropriate for me to comment. But in terms of constant claims in the media about particular instances, clearly that has nothing to do with my responsibilities as a minister. I do not know the veracity of any of that. (Time expired)


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South Wales) (14:52): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I refer to reports in today's Sydney Morning Herald by Philip Coorey citing a senior Labor MP who said that Mr Thomson looked him in the eye and said that he had won his defamation case against Fairfax. Given that Mr Thomson told his colleagues he was 'very happy with' the outcome of the defamation hearing, how can the Prime Minister still say that she has complete confidence in Mr Thomson?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:54): I note that the senator is very well read in terms of the newspapers articles. I know that is the source of most Liberal Party research, which tends to make question time a bit predictable. I certainly do not intend to respond to allegations that somebody may have told a journalist something. That is clearly not appropriate. As I have indicated previously, I have nothing in my ministerial responsibilities that pertains to the questions asked.

Senator Brandis: On a point of order, Mr President: Senator Evans represents the Prime Minister in this chamber. The question was about the Prime Minister's assertion on three consecutive occasions last week that she has full confidence in the member for Dobell. How could that not be relevant to the minister's representational capacity?

The PRESIDENT: The minister is answering the question and has 27 seconds remaining.

Senator CHRIS EVANS: Senator Brandis is right to point out that at the end of the question Senator Fierravanti-Wells did make some reference to that. I can confirm that the Prime Minister did express her full confidence in Mr Thomson, as reported.

Senator Abetz: Great standards!

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I am waiting to call a senator on my right!