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Wednesday, 11 March 1998
Page: 1037


Mr CREAN (7:13 PM) —I seek your indulgence, Mr Speaker.


Mr SPEAKER —Indulgence is granted.


Mr CREAN —The Prime Minister (Mr Howard) has failed to answer the questions that have been put to him and he is scurrying out of the chamber because he knows that it will not be long before he is back in here announcing the resignation of the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Parer.

We have the circumstances where the Prime Minister stopped Senator Herron from practising medicine because he was Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs but he has not stopped Senator Parer holding shares in a coal company when he is the minister with responsibility for coal. What sort of logic is in that? He required the resignation of Jim Short for not disclosing shares which he could not influence in terms of the NAB. He sought that resignation immediately. We have now established that Senator Parer has, through the private company which he and his wife control alone, nine shares, eight of them held by Senator Parer, one by his wife, both directors, and they have held the shares in Queensland Coal Mining Management. He dismisses 16 shares as a small amount. The trouble is they are worth $2 million, at least.

If we are being told that these are just a little parcel, where has the Prime Minister been denying the value of those shares? Two million dollars worth of shares—and we are supposed to ignore it! The Prime Minister does not even mention it. We also have the circumstance in the Senate that Senator Parer has listed in his register of interests the interest in Investment Management Pty Ltd. What he has not done is list the shares that it holds. He is required under Senate practice to do that, quite apart from the Prime Minister's own admonition to his members, when they got caught in the John Moore scandal following the Jim Short episode, when he ordered Max Moore-Wilton, his departmental head, to run the fine tooth comb over all of these things. What we have is the person who hid them.

It is not as if he did not know of the importance of this company shareholding because the minister divested himself of the directorship in Queensland Coal Mining Management. Why did he divest himself of the directorship and as chair? Because he declared it. But what he had not declared were the shares and, therefore, he did not divest them. This was deceitful, Mr Speaker.

The other point that has not been disclosed and which the Prime Minister has made no mention of in his answer is the direct holding of 44 shares in QCMM—ESP Group Pty Ltd—a direct holding of shares in a subsidiary of the company, not even through the device of the trust or the private company. Nor has he listed, as he is required to do in the Senate, the subsidiary companies of Queensland Coal Mining Management which he just has this little $2 million interest in. What are those interests? They are 100 per cent ownership of Advanced Queensland Resources and Mining Pty Ltd, which just happens to operate an open-cut mine in Jellinbah. They have 100 per cent ownership as a subsidiary of Jellinbah Mining Pty Ltd, which lists the nature of its business as coal mining, and they have a 70 per cent interest in Bowen Basin Coal Pty Ltd, whose principal activity is coal mining. Yet we are being told there are $2 million worth of shares in coal, plus the potential dividend streams that come off it, in the minister's own portfolio area of responsibility.

If that is not a conflict, what is? If that is not a conflict, let them bring Jim Short back and try to argue that case for him. Why dump Jim Short when the Prime Minister is prepared to hang on to a mate? We know he shared a house with Senator Parer. Is he protecting him simply because he is a mate? What he is not doing is honouring his code of conduct, nor is Senator Parer abiding by the requirements that exist in the Senate in terms of the way in which you register.

The fact of the matter is that Senator Parer is guilty on three counts. He is guilty on the count that he has not disclosed the shares to the Senate, as he is required to do. He is guilty on the count that he has not disclosed, through the Prime Minister, his shareholding in Queensland Coal Mining Management, which constitutes a clear conflict. And he is guilty on the count that, as minister for coal, he has all of these overlapping interests—intriguing web, deceitful web—in the coal industry. If that is not a conflict of interest, what is?

I know the Prime Minister has walked away from many things in his tawdry two years of office, but this is a disgraceful capitulation in terms of a mate. How can he come into this House and say that he is satisfied that Senator Parer has complied with his requirements?


Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member has now exceeded the time. I suggest that he comes to the conclusion of his indulgence. If he wishes to move a motion, that is for him.


Mr CREAN —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will draw to a conclusion.


Mr Reith —He will need to. He ran out of puff about 10 minutes ago.


Mr CREAN —There is no lost puff in this, I assure you. We will be going after you and you will be in there with the smile wiped off that stupid face.


Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member will draw his remarks to a close.


Mr CREAN —It has been said by the Prime Minister again in his answer that the minister and his wife received no dividend stream benefit in 1995-96. Where did the distribution go? It would simply have been washed through the family trust and benefited his own family directly. There are many more questions to be answered. The Prime Minister should be in here doing that. Most of all, he should have demanded the resignation of Senator Parer.


Mr Stephen Smith —On a point of order, Mr Speaker: I asked the Prime Minister three questions today at question time. He has come into the House. He has not directly answered.


Mr SPEAKER —That is no basis for a point of order.