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Tuesday, 13 September 1983
Page: 649


Mr SPENDER —My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Many of us read with interest an article in today's Age which casts some light on the Prime Minister' s impecunious circumstances while Opposition spokesman on industrial relations and how he sought to keep his head above the financial waters. I ask the Prime Minister: Is the article accurate? If it is, did he use his fee of $1,500 to meet costs? If so, what were they and why were they not covered by the generous allowances given to front benchers? Does he intend to include his fee of $1,500 for his lunchtime work as part of his assessable income for 1982-83? How does he justify the receipt of this sort of backdoor income in view of his pleas for wage restraint and his public professions of high standards of conduct on behalf of parliamentarians? Does he not agree, on reflection, that he never should have accepted a fee of $1,500 for doing what was no more than part of his work?


Mr HAWKE —I can very genuinely say that I welcome this question. The only surprise I have about it is as to its source. First of all, the report is not accurate, as is so much of the evidence given by the gentleman in question. The amount mentioned--


Mr Howard —Was it only $150?


Mr HAWKE —No, it was more than that. The report is inaccurate. In fact, I received $1,100. Mr Speaker, I can assure you and the House that I intend to pursue this matter vigorously. I abhor the implication contained in the question -that I would not lodge a statement in my income tax return in respect of such income. In respect of the financial year 1981-82 there was a similar but a much lesser fee. That amount has been stated in my income tax statement for the year 1981-82, which has been lodged. I trust that the honourable member for North Sydney is not serious in the innuendo that I would do otherwise. The same course will be followed in respect of my tax returns for 1982-83 as was followed in 1981-82. I am more than happy to give all the facts. In addition to the incorrect figure that was mentioned in today's Press, there were three other occasions in 1982 one of which, as I said, was in the financial year 1981-82; the other two payments would be in respect of 1982-83. They were amounts of $500 , $600 and $600. Those are the clear statements of fact in regard to income.

I am quite happy-although the outgoings on the part of my wife and myself have not been mentioned-to have our outgoings in terms of the sharing of income with others less privileged than ourselves compared with those of any other honourable member of this House. When I was in Opposition, and in the many years before I was in Opposition, I normally did not ask for, or accept, speaking fees . In the four cases that I referred to in 1982, these were the arrangements made by Mr Combe and the engagements were undertaken at his request. I am more than happy, as I have done in the past, openly to put that information before this House. I make the point-which is perhaps there by implication as to some possible conflict of interest-that I would have thought that the events of this year since 20 April have made it abundantly clear that there can be no suggestion in regard to me and my Government that any past relations would, in any way, deter me or my Government from undertaking the action that is necessary in terms of the duty required of this Government.

Let me make it quite clear that there is no general restriction on ordinary members of parliament obtaining income from other than their duties as a member or senator including, of course, paid speaking engagements. I imagine that the honourable member who asked the question is aware of that fact and operates accordingly, apart from the constitutional restriction on members and senators that they may not hold offices of profit under the Crown and provided it does not put a member in conflict with his duties and responsibilities as a member of this House. As we all know, the situation with Ministers is quite different.

As the Opposition, through the honourable member for North Sydney, has opened up this issue I would like to pursue it in general terms and in particular terms . In general terms I would wish to pursue it in this way: As far as I am concerned, I have put the facts clearly before the House and am more than happy to do so. I wonder whether honourable members on the other side of the House are as happy and as straightforwardly prepared as I am to put all the relevant information before the House in respect of the income that they receive. As is known, I am requiring a statement of the financial situation of my Ministers so that this fact will be known. Any suggestion of possible conflict of interests will be made quite clear. Those statements will be tabled in this House. I wonder whether those honourable members on the other side of the House, particularly those who are leading on the other side of the House, will be prepared, equally, to respond to the action that we will be taking. If they are not voluntarily prepared to be as open as all Ministers will be on this side of the House, it may be that it will be appropriate to look at the question as to whether legislatively it will be sensible to make such a requirement.

I said I wanted to pursue this matter in general terms and I have done so. I indicate the openness of myself and my Ministers, and that will be a matter of tabling in this House. In regard to the particular, it is interesting to reflect as a question has been asked about the past in respect of me, whether we may not with equal value speculate on the past in respect of the Leader of the Opposition. It is known that in his case, when he was going through his hiatus period, if we can so describe it, he made arrangements in respect of people on his staff. I do no more than refer briefly to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 11 August 1981, which stated:

Mr Andrew Peacock's former top aide, Mr Barry Simon--


Mr McVeigh —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Standing order 145 states that all answers shall be relevant to the question. The question being answered was not asked.


Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member knows the rulings given on that point in the past. The Chair has some problems with it. The Prime Minister is within the Standing Orders and past practice.


Mr HAWKE —As I was saying, an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 11 August 1981 stated:

Mr Andrew Peacock's former top aide, Mr Barry Simon, will return to his staff to co-ordinate Mr Peacock's drive for the Liberal Party leadership. 'This is part of a unique arrangement under which Mr Simon and several other staffers will work full time for Mr Peacock and have their salary paid by business and financial interests backing Mr Peacock for the leadership'.

Members of the Opposition have sought to raise something about my past. I have put it squarely on the table. In respect of the Leader of the Opposition, I ask that he be equally straightforward with regard to that relevant question.