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Tuesday, 24 June 2003
Page: 17292


Dr SOUTHCOTT (3:12 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Special Minister of State. Has the minister seen assertions that the disclosure provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act can be defeated by the channelling of a cash donation for $9,880 through a so-called major raffle? Is the minister aware of other Commonwealth measures which such a transaction might have been designed to defeat? What is the government's response to these suggestions?

Honourable members interjecting


The SPEAKER —I remind all members of their status in the House.


Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for Boothby for his question. I can inform the member for Boothby that comments in today's paper by Mr Dante Tan's business partner certainly seem to indicate that a member of the Australian Labor Party, former frontbencher Senator Nick Bolkus, gave dodgy advice on how to avoid the disclosure requirements of the Electoral Act. I want to make it very clear to members opposite that the Australian Electoral Commission advises that any receipts which aggregate to more than $1,500 must be disclosed by both the receiver and the donor. In other words, large donations cannot be disaggregated just because they are channelled through the device of a dodgy raffle.

Mr Speaker, you have to ask yourself just what political planet Senator Bolkus has been inhabiting these last few weeks. How could Senator Bolkus have been reading the newspapers over the last few weeks and not have recalled his own handling of a Dante Tan donation—unless, of course, Senator Bolkus does this kind of thing all the time? Senator Bolkus must now provide answers about what seems to have been the world's most expensive chook raffle. How many tickets did Senator Bolkus sell? At what price did Senator Bolkus sell these tickets? How many tickets did Senator Bolkus sell to Mr Tan? And the questions that Senator Bolkus really should answer are these. When did he tell the Leader of the Opposition? When did he tell the member for Lalor? When did he tell the member for Reid?


Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As you have pointed out many times in the House, question time is there for ministers to provide answers, not for them to provide a long list of questions to the House. The minister has been asked about a particular matter and he should provide an answer.


The SPEAKER —I was listening closely to the minister's answer, which I concede was unusual. But I cannot deem it was not relevant to the question asked.


Mr ABBOTT —After Senator Bolkus has told us when the Leader of the Opposition first knew about this raffle, the Leader of the Opposition might tell us what he is doing to discipline his members who apparently are trying to launder money and avoid the disclosure provisions of the Electoral Act.


Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order, standing order 145. He is now asking questions which have absolutely nothing to do with the question that he was asked.


The SPEAKER —I am listening closely to the minister's response. The minister's obligation under standing order 145 is to be relevant to the question.


Mr ABBOTT —It should not be too hard for the Leader of the Opposition to find out answers from Senator Bolkus. Let us face it, they flat together in Canberra. You can just imagine the late evening—


The SPEAKER —Minister!


Mr Latham —Sit down.


The SPEAKER —I am exercising a good deal of tolerance for both sides of the House.


Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. He is now defying your ruling. He is nowhere near relevant to the question that was asked. He is talking about accommodation arrangements in Canberra. Surely that has nothing to do with the question he was asked.


The SPEAKER —The minister was asked a question about the channelling of funds and raffles.

Honourable members interjecting


The SPEAKER —I remind the House that a general warning is not issued lightly and that if it is abused by anybody I will take action. I recognise that there has been a good deal of hilarity directed from some members to others but I do expect people to recognise the right of others to be heard in silence.


Mr Martin Ferguson —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In relation to your general warning, I think you have now correctly pulled the member for Leichhardt into order.


The SPEAKER —I thank the member for Batman for his vote of confidence. The minister will come to the question.


Mr ABBOTT —You can imagine the conversation tonight, can't you, back at this exclusive Canberra—


The SPEAKER —The minister will come to the question.


Mr ABBOTT —`How many dodgy donations have you made recently?' That is the question that the Leader of the Opposition ought to pose.


The SPEAKER —Minister!


Mr ABBOTT —I have also been asked—



The SPEAKER —I have intervened. The member for Werriwa will resume his seat.


Mr ABBOTT —I have also been asked about other Commonwealth legislation requirements which might have been evaded by the actions of Senator Bolkus. The Financial Transactions Reports Act 1988 requires mandatory recording of cash transactions over $10,000. I am advised that bank tellers are trained to identify suspect transactions just beneath the $10,000 threshold. The amount of the cash cheque, $9,880, suggests that it may have been designed precisely to circumvent these legislative requirements. The AEC certainly may wish to refer this matter to the Australian Federal Police for further investigation.

It seems that Senator Bolkus has been involved in money laundering, pure and simple; it seems that the ALP is in this up to its neck. I call on the Leader of the Opposition to come clean about what has been going on and to discipline Senator Bolkus immediately.