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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 801

Mr CARLTON —My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Was not the Minister for Education, Senator Ryan, as a Cabinet Minister, a participant in discussions leading to the decision announced by the Treasurer to have a mini-Budget? Is it not a fact that, in those circumstances, she was fully apprised of the economic advice given to the Government concerning interest rates? How, therefore, can it be claimed that Senator Ryan was unaware of the alleged inaccuracy in her briefing notes? Is it not a fact that Dr Hawkins, described by the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues as a `junior official', was employed in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in 1983 as an Assistant Secretary in the Economics Division with specific responsibility for monetary policy and interest rates? Referring to the Prime Minister's statement in his answer to the Leader of the Opposition's question where he said `Public servants have rights to their opinions', is it not also a fact that Dr Hawkins has received this morning strict instructions not to speak to the media?

Mr HAWKE —Taking the last part of the question first, I do not know whether Dr Hawkins received such instructions this morning, nor do I recall having used the phrase `junior official'. I have no recollection of having used that phrase but it surprises me not one whit that the honourable member would attribute to me things that I have not said. The position is quite clear and, to her credit, Senator Ryan, has not attempted to disguise it. It is obvious that she had not read the document before she gave her answer.

Opposition members-Ha, ha!

Mr HAWKE —Members of the Opposition may laugh about that. I regret it and obviously Senator Ryan regrets it. It is quite clear that she had not read the document. However, it is a tribute to the Minister's candour and her honesty that she was willing to table the document when, as honourable members would know, under Senate Standing Orders she was not required to table a confidential document.

As I said in answer to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, it was a mistake that a document which did not accurately convey government policy was allowed to be put forward in the Senate in that way. I have nothing to add to that, nor do I have anything to add to the fact that it was a mistake not only that this emerged but that the Minister had not read the document. In that way, something which was not a statement of the Government's position was before the Senate. Neither the Minister nor I can be any more direct, straightforward or honest than that.

Madam SPEAKER —I ask those on my immediate left to cease interjecting while Ministers are answering questions.