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Wednesday, 13 August 2003
Page: 18429


Mr CREAN (Leader of the Opposition) (4:56 PM) —Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.


The SPEAKER —Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to have been misrepresented?


Mr CREAN —Yes, I do.


The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition may proceed.


Mr CREAN —Today in question time I claim to have been misrepresented by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister claimed that I had misrepresented him by saying that he had said, and I quote from the question:

... if it is true that you were advised that imports of ethanol from Brazil to this country had never occurred, and if, as you have just said in relation to the answer—

The Prime Minister then interrupted to say:

I didn't say that.

In other words, he did not say that he had been advised that imports of ethanol from Brazil to this country had never occurred. In fact, if you go to Hansard in relation an earlier question that I had asked the Prime Minister, he said:

... the first occasion that imports of ethanol had ever come into the calculations—


The SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.


Mr Abbott —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. A personal explanation is to show where a member has been misrepresented, not to raise arguments that have been raised in question time and not to put constructions on the words of other people.


The SPEAKER —I was listening very closely to the Leader of the Opposition who understands, as I do, that a personal explanation must indicate where the Leader of the Opposition has been misrepresented. I am following closely to discover where the Leader of the Opposition, in an unusually constructed personal explanation, has himself been misrepresented. The sooner he can come to the point of his misrepresentation the easier it will be for me to allow him to continue.


Mr CREAN —I was asserting what the Prime Minister had said. The Prime Minister said that my assertion of what he had said was wrong. What I am going to is what the Prime Minister actually said in the parliament to prove my point. I quote:

... it was, in the knowledge of the officials to whom I have spoken, the first occasion that imports of ethanol had ever come into the calculations so far as Australia was concerned.

Honourable members interjecting


The SPEAKER —Order! I would remind all members in the House, in the chamber, at this moment, that general warnings do not suddenly expire at the end of question time. The Leader of the Opposition must understand that he is putting the chair in an invidious position as I trace my way through this map. I ask him to clarify the personal explanation.


Mr CREAN —I am just making the point that the Prime Minister cannot even tell the truth in relation to something that he had said five minutes—


The SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat and withdraw that allegation. The Leader of the Opposition is aware that this is a matter of a personal explanation. I tolerated more leniency in the personal explanation than would normally be exercised. It would be quite outside a personal explanation for the Leader of the Opposition to then say that the Prime Minister cannot tell the truth. I ask him to withdraw that statement.


Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I draw your attention to the many precedents where saying that someone cannot tell the truth is not outside the standing orders. The Leader of the Opposition has been misrepresented by the Prime Minister. Under the standing orders, he is making a personal explanation. On a day like this it is not surprising that he has made the commonsense, straightforward observation that the Prime Minister cannot tell the truth.


The SPEAKER —Let me first indicate to the member for Werriwa that that was scarcely a point of order. Furthermore, what I had given the Leader of the Opposition the call for was a personal explanation, an indication of where the Leader of the Opposition had been misrepresented. I allowed him a good deal of leniency and do not regret it. Standing order 76 makes it very clear that

All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.

Given that the comment was made in a personal explanation and bore no relevance to the Leader of the Opposition being personally misrepresented, I require him to withdraw it.

Opposition members interjecting


The SPEAKER —Order! I would also remind a number of members of an earlier warning. I have made a request of the Leader of the Opposition because a personal explanation was what was extended.


Mr CREAN —To facilitate the House, I withdraw it.