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Tuesday, 27 May 2003
Page: 15022

Ms MACKLIN (2:08 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer in his capacity as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in the federal parliament. Does the Treasurer recall telling the Meet the Press program on 4 May:

The thing about our system is that the appointment of a Governor-General is a personal appointment. It is the Prime Minister's appointment. It's not a Cabinet, it's not a parliamentary, it's a personal appointment.

Isn't it the case that last night the Prime Minister said that the Treasurer was consulted on the appointment? What advice did the Treasurer give to the Prime Minister about the appointment of Dr Hollingworth as Governor-General?

The SPEAKER —This is not a question that goes directly to the Treasurer's portfolio responsibility. Therefore, it is not something for which he ought to be held accountable or responsible in the House.

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I seek indulgence to answer the question.

The SPEAKER —The standing orders provide that, for issues that ought to be addressed by a minister, questions should be addressed to a minister about matters for which he has ministerial responsibility. It is therefore difficult for me to find an area in which this question could responsibly be directed to the Treasurer.

Mr Swan —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There is ample precedent in this House to ask that question of the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. You have on numerous occasions allowed questions similar to that. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why you have so ruled.

The SPEAKER —If I could think of a precedent I would be very happy to allow the question to stand. I am seeking to implement the standing orders consistently.

Mr McMullan —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The clearest precedent that I can recall is the number of occasions on which questions were being asked both to the current Leader of the National Party and to his predecessor in their capacity as Leader of the National Party, which you allowed them to answer—and properly allowed them to answer. It is exactly the same precedent.

Mr COSTELLO —No, it is not.

Mr McMullan —You do not know what you are talking about. It is clearly and on each occasion directed to them in their capacity as Leader of the National Party. The first that I can remember was to the former leader concerning the policy of the National Party about preferences to One Nation, which was directly asked to the Leader of the National Party in his capacity as Leader of the National Party.

The SPEAKER —On the advice of the member for Fraser, I will allow this question to stand, but I should indicate to the House that I do so with a good deal of disquiet. I will look at the record, because I want to enforce the standing orders. I recall the instance the member for Fraser raises. On his advice, I will allow the question to stand.

Mr COSTELLO —The appointment of a governor-general is a personal appointment; it is not a cabinet appointment. That has been the constitutional practice, as I understand it, for a very long period of time. It has been reaffirmed recently by the Prime Minister. It was endorsed by Premier Bob Carr, from memory, during the week—

Mr Howard —And Geoff Gallop this morning.

Mr COSTELLO —and endorsed by Geoff Gallop. It was certainly the practice which was followed by Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and previous Labor prime ministers. The question asked about the statement I made on Channel 10. It was a correct statement about the constitutional provision, which has been reaffirmed recently. I can assure the House of this: the Prime Minister—

Ms Macklin —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance.

The SPEAKER —The member for Jagajaga is well aware of standing order 144, which applies to questions, and standing order 145, which applies to answers. The Treasurer is being entirely relevant.

Mr COSTELLO —As I said, I can assure the House that the Prime Minister has always abided by the proper constitutional practice. The discussions that I have had with the Prime Minister in relation to vice-regal appointments have covered the pros and cons of such appointments, but I can inform the House that at no stage during our conversation was there anything related to Dr Hollingworth's handling of sex abuse allegations during his time as Archbishop of Brisbane. I can inform the House that that was the case.