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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 341

Mr WHITE(1.00) —I wish to raise the incident of the travel expenditure of the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown) and in particular an incident which occurred when the Parliament was not sitting. The incident blew up during the recess in October last year. The Minister no doubt will put on his usual air of injured innocence. He should realise by now that all his problems are brought on himself by himself because of the actions, half of them stupid, which he takes. This is the Minister who in 1982 was so high-minded during an incident called `the TV affair'. He was in the middle of that. He took the high-minded approach in 1982. On 20 April, in a debate in this House he said:

O, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.

O, the high-minded Minister in April 1982! There are lots of other choice little quotes here. He talks about people putting pressure on employees to provide preferential treatment to a Minister of the Crown. Mr Deputy Speaker, that is exactly what the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism did in the incident which I will quickly relate. What he did was fiddle some airline tickets to advantage himself.

Mr Howe —Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. The statement `fiddle airline tickets' seems to me to be a statement that ought to be withdrawn. I think it reflects on another member of the Parliament.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I ask the honourable member to withdraw.

Mr WHITE —I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker. What he did was manipulate or rearrange some Government airline tickets to his own financial advantage. This is on top of the enormous excesses that he has spent on himself in the last few years as a Minister travelling around this country and particularly overseas. What happened was that his wife, Mrs Brown, was issued with a first class ticket to travel from Sydney to Adelaide and return. That was an Australian Airlines ticket. It was then exchanged for an Ansett Airlines of Australia ticket. That Ansett ticket was then exchanged for economy tickets for Mrs Brown and one son. It is illegal to downgrade a ticket. The Minister knew it was illegal but that did not apparently--

Mr Howe —Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I understand from the drift of what I have heard so far that the honourable member who is on his feet within the context of a grievance debate is in fact making some charges about the conduct of the Minister in question. It is my understanding of the standing orders that if the honourable member wants to make charges of that kind it is perfectly open to him to do so, but he ought to do so by way of a substantive motion.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I understand the point made by the Minister. I am listening very carefully to the honourable member for McPherson. He may criticise the administration of the Minister. If he goes beyond that I shall certainly intervene.

Mr Howe —Further to the point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I certainly have heard enough. There have been assertions made. I think the term was withdrawn but another term was substituted with respect to--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The Minister will get to the term he thinks is offensive.

Mr Howe —It is not a question of the term being offensive, if I could just explain my point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The point I am seeking to make is that even with the rephrasing, which I did not object to, in terms of being within the standing orders, in terms of the phrasing that was actually used, nevertheless the substance of what was being suggested represented, in my view, a charge, if you like, or assertion against the Minister that ought to be made by way of substantive motion.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I understand the point made by the Minister. I take the information you have given me. It does not alter my earlier ruling. I call the honourable member for McPherson.

Mr WHITE —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I might add that I did warn the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism that I was going to speak and it is surprising that he is not here to speak for himself. What happened apparently was that this ticket exchange took place. The Minister then, and I have never seen any denial from him in the Press or in private, apparently rang up an Ansett employee asking for an exchange to be made, that is, for the status of a ticket to be downgraded. That employee, knowing it was illegal, then said no.

Mr Howe —Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order, I must say that I am very concerned about your ruling because what is happening is that--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The Minister may not reflect on the Chair in that way but if he wishes to make another point of order I would ask him to do so.

Mr Howe —If I may make a further point of order, it is simply this: We have heard the premise put in terms of the argument that the honourable member is making and the premise seems to me to constitute a charge that he is making of some kind of misconduct on the part of the Minister. He is now proceeding to argue--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I think the remarks that the honourable member for McPherson made latterly were getting to the stage where they reflect upon the conduct of the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism. I call the honourable member but he may not proceed along those lines.

Mr WHITE —Mr Deputy Speaker, of course, I obey the ruling. I did wish to talk about that incident and I did wish to talk about the general excess of travel expenses which this Minister indulges in. As I understand it, that will also be ruled against.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! If it helps the honourable member for McPherson he may criticise the Minister insofar as it relates to his administration of his portfolio but he may not reflect upon the character of the Minister.

Mr WHITE —Mr Deputy Speaker, thank you. I just continue by saying that here we have a Minister of the Crown who has been very critical of other people who have been criticised for being somewhat lax in their own administration of their ministerial duties, who is now in the same position, in that a ticket was exchanged. I want to ask the Minister--

Mr Howe —Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I appreciate your ruling and I think you have very clearly directed the honourable member to restrict himself to questions of the administration of the Minister's portfolio but I am afraid he cannot resist it and he has immediately tried to get back into the previous question which I think you quite clearly ruled out of order.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I will listen to the honourable member for McPherson very closely.

Mr WHITE —As time is running out, Mr Deputy Speaker, one would have to ask, in terms of the administration of the Minister's portfolio, questions about some of the other excessive expenditure that he has indulged in on some of his other overseas trips. In October 1983, he and a small party spent some $69,000. I would think that even the Minister for Social Security (Mr Howe) would be concerned about that. He is always beefing about not enough money to administer his portfolio and here is one of his colleagues tramping around the world, on one trip spending $69,000. Is he going to object to that on a point of order? No. In July 1984, the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism went steaming around the world and spent another $62,000, including a trip to Milan. And we all know what that was for-to try to get one of his mates a job.

Mr Howe —Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Once again the honourable member cannot resist it and is again reflecting on the Minister. If he wants to raise some issue we are open to debate but it must be done by way of substantive motion.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The last remark about the Minister getting his mate a job transgressed. But prior to that he was relating an alleged--

Mr Howe —Sure. But I think that last remark should be withdrawn because it does reflect on the Minister.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I ask the honourable member for McPherson to withdraw.

Mr WHITE —I withdraw. In conclusion, because these matters are going to be raised again, on that particular trip some $15,000 was spent on car hire. How one spends $15,000 in about three weeks on car hire is absolutely beyond me.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.