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Wednesday, 12 October 1983
Page: 1643


Mr PEACOCK (Leader of the Opposition)(3.02) —I move:

That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition from moving the following motion:

That the Minister for Finance be condemned for deliberately misleading the House in his answer to the honourable member for O'Connor during Question Time on Tuesday, 11 October.


Mr Howard —I second the motion.


Mr SPEAKER —The motion is seconded. Is it in writing?


Mr PEACOCK —Yes, it is.


Mr Holding —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I draw your attention to standing order 169 which states:

The Speaker . . . subject to the provisions of standing order 233 . . . may . . . disallow any motion or amendment which is the same in substance as any question, which, during the same session, has been resolved in the affirmative or negative.

The issue which has been specifically raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) was canvassed in the House last night. The substance of the matter was canvassed last night and was resolved by the House. Mr Speaker, I put it to you that unless the Leader of the Opposition--


Mr SPEAKER —I think I should interrupt the Minister at the moment. He perhaps misunderstands. The motion before the Chair is for the suspension--

Honourable members interjecting-


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I have already appealed to honourable members so that the procedures of the House can go on.


Mr McVeigh —What is he doing?


Mr SPEAKER —I warn the honourable member for Darling Downs. I point out to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that the motion before the House is for suspension of Standing Orders. He may raise the matter at a later stage. I call the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr PEACOCK —The Opposition moves the suspension of Standing Orders to draw attention to the fact and underline the reality that we have, in the presence of this Parliament, a man who misled this House with a blatant denial yesterday that he had anything to do with bottom of the harbour tax transactions other than the specious first answer which referred vaguely to the legislation that was before the House. When the Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins) addressed his own personal conduct he said:

As far as my personal conduct is concerned, absolutely no.

That was in response to a question asked by the honourable member for O'Connor ( Mr Tuckey) which could not have been misinterpreted. The honourable member for O 'Connor said:

Can the Minister for Finance assure the House that he has not been involved in any way with bottom of the harbour tax transactions?

The reality, and the reason for moving the suspension of Standing Orders, is that by dint of questioning in this place yesterday the Minister was forced to come into the House last night and admit that he had in fact been involved with such transactions-transactions that he denied any association with, or any involvement in only yesterday afternoon. If ever there were a reason for moving the suspension of Standing Orders, it is when a Minister deliberately misleads the House. Honourable members opposite should not tell me that they are prepared to put up with a situation where, at Question Time, a Minister can mislead on a basic fact like this and then deny it the next day. The other motivation for moving the suspension of Standing Orders is that the principal of those opposite is now coming into the Parliament today and associating himself with the Minister. Honourable members will recall the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) said that the Finance Minister had not misled the House. The reality is that he did.

We move the suspension of Standing Orders because nothing can be more important than that we receive the truth from Ministers when answering questions or, indeed, making statements in this Parliament. Parliament cannot function, it cannot operate if we are to doubt the word of a Minister. It calls into question the very honesty of the Government as a whole. If tax transactions can be carried on by this Minister, denied and brought about only by dint of our questioning, the honesty that is being proffered today compares abjectly with what was put yesterday. It is outrageous that the Government and the Prime Minister would try to conceal the lie. There was a disclosure of pecuniary interests-a document describing the disclosures and listing them all only three weeks ago. This is the twelfth occasion that there has been a change in that disclosure. Nine were tabled by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Lionel Bowen) when he was speaking on the matter; then there was a tenth that related to the Minister for Aviation (Mr Beazley); and now there are two that relate to the Minister for Finance. So much for open and public disclosure.

The heart of the matter is that when questioned on elements relating to these matters the truth was not told; it was only flushed out later in the day. This is the man of morals who did not volunteer it and had to have it dragged out of him, the man who attacked people like John Reid.


Mr Hurford —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. This is a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. I put to you that the substance of the motion is being canvassed wrongly at present in the House. I ask you to confine the Leader of the Opposition to the terms of the motion before the House.


Mr SPEAKER —I suggest honourable members on my left might benefit their leader if they remain quiet. The mover of the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is usually allowed a limited opportunity to deal with the substance of the motion that is predicted. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to take some note of that fact. I call the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr PEACOCK —The reality is that we move this motion because the Minister did mislead the House and today has denied it. We have moved this motion because procedurally this is the only way to bring before the people the dishonour that has been brought not just on the Minister and the Government but on the House itself. We have to suspend Standing Orders and, in so doing, refer to what was said in this Parliament. The fact is that the Minister for Finance has been involved in a bottom of the harbour scheme. This was forced out of him. The Minister's hyprocrisy is exceeded only by the Government's contempt for the truth itself. The reason for moving the suspension of Standing Orders is that this is the man who, after all, spoke in this Parliament on 12 October 1982 saying, for example:

We are not talking about some strict definition of law breaking . . . We are talking about morality, business ethics and cheating.

Today he denied that he misled the House. Mr Speaker I remind you again, in speaking to the motion to suspend Standing Orders, that we are doing so because, when asked whether he had participated in bottom of the harbour transactions, he said:

. . . absolutely no.

That was a blatant denial yesterday flushed out at night when he was forced to come into the chamber and admit the transactions. Do not think this is some fabricated matter; it is on the record on page 1535 of Hansard. It nails the Minister for what he is-one who did not tell the truth regarding these bottom of the harbour tax transactions when asked in Question Time yesterday. We have to move a procedural motion to draw attention to this matter. We have moved for the suspension of Standing Orders to discuss the matter in far greater detail.

It is interesting to note that the Prime Minister has associated himself with the Minister today. I only make that comment in passing. Honourable members will recall that, had it not been for members on this side of the House drawing attention to the fact that the Prime Minister was walking out on his Minister last night, he would not have voted in support of the Finance Minister. But some work has been done overnight and the Prime Minister is associating himself not only with the Minister's answer yesterday but also with the fact that there was an absolute denial. Therefore, the blunt aspersions that we are casting on the Minister for Finance can also be laid at the feet of the Prime Minister, who is embracing a Minister who has misled the House. It is necessary to suspend the Standing Orders-


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition might return to the motion for suspension of Standing Orders.


Mr PEACOCK —It is necessary to suspend Standing Orders to develop all these arguments in detail. Fact one is that the blatant denial is in Hansard. Fact two is the later answer given by the Minister which turned on its head the very answer given yesterday afternoon and now this afternoon the denial that the Minister had misled the House in any way. Unless we suspend Standing Orders we cannot go through all the other material that we have that has been forwarded to us about the Minister for Finance which would substantiate the substantive motion that we are seeking to put about the Minister's misleading of this Parliament. No country can have confidence in a government in which a Minister is prepared to mislead the House. No country can have confidence in a Government in which the Prime Minister embraces both the manner and the substance of that misleading. This Prime Minister has embraced his Minister and he is standing with him in the misleading of this Parliament. We need the suspension of Standing Orders to detail the charges.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired. Is the motion seconded?


Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I second the motion.


Mr Dawkins —Mr Speaker, it might assist the Opposition if I indicate that the Government will not oppose this motion.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Motion of Condemnation