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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19236

Mr LATHAM (3:37 PM) —There is a smell about this government, and it is called cronyism. First there was Stan Howard, then there was Karim Kisrwani, then there was Dick Honan and now there is Michael Tuckey. All these people have virtually been invited in to have a seat at the cabinet table. All of them have been given special deals, special treatment, special intervention by the Howard government. And what does everyone else in this country get? They get higher taxes, loss of bulk-billing, more to pay at the chemist shop and $150,000 university degrees for their children. Talk about a double standard! The insiders are in the cabinet room, and the outsiders are paying more and getting less from the Howard government.

This double standard needs to be recognised in this debate. But the debate is not only about double standards; it is about the fundamental misleading of the Australian parliament. Yesterday the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government was exposed for not one, not two, not three, not four but five misleadings of the House of Representatives. Today there have been another three. At this rate, we are going to need the scoreboard from the Melbourne Cricket Ground to keep up with the misleading by the minister for regional services.

Today, the minister answered a question with a prepared statement. And what did he say? He said:

In my answer to the member for Corio on Tuesday, my reference to not pressing the matter any further was a reference to the three letters he mentioned in his question.

He went on to say that `in the swirl and fog of question time' this might have been misunderstood. So what did the minister for regional services say in this House on 19 August? He said:

When they were fined—

that is, his son and his son's mate—

I wrote to the minister saying that I thought a warning should be appropriate. I did not press the matter any further.

It could not be any more clear cut. The minister said that, when the fine was issued, he wrote and then he did not press it any further. Press it any further? He wrote another two letters, and the third letter asked for the costs to be waived and the matter to be relisted for a hearing with a magistrate. That is a straight misleading of the House of Representatives. The minister went on in his statement to say:

With respect to the allegation that I misled the House when I said, `I did not ask that it be chang-ed,' my initial letter makes it clear that I asked for the matter to be reconsidered, not changed.

The minister for regional services' defence today is that, when you ask for something to be reconsidered, you are not actually asking for it to be changed. We had champion debaters in the gallery earlier on. They would have heard this and thought, `Hang on—“If you ask for something to be reconsidered, you are not asking for it to be changed.” Is that what the minister is really saying? In our debates and our school work, we would probably defer to a higher source. We would go to the Macquarie Dictionary to test this proposition.' Then they would look up the word `reconsider' and see that the definition reads `to consider again with a view to a change of decision or action'. It is signed, sealed and delivered. The debating class knows it, the gallery knows it, the Australian people know it and the Macquarie Dictionary knows it. The only people who do not know it are those two over there, the minister for regional services and the Leader of the House, plus the Prime Minister. Talk about fog and swirl and acts of delusion. Let me read it out again from the Macquarie Dictionary: to reconsider is `to consider again with a view to a change of decision or action'. Too right that is what the minister was doing in his letter to the South Australian police minister. He was asking for reconsideration—a change of the decision. He wanted to have the costs wiped and the matter relisted for a hearing before a magistrate.

That was the third misleading today. They are rolling the numbers, down at the MCG. We are up to eight misleadings. The final misleading today was when the minister said:

... I called for the minister to reconsider the additional costs imposed. This is clear from my letter of 16 January 2003.

He said that all he did was to ask for the reconsideration of the costs imposed. Minister, didn't you leave something out—the fact that you also asked for the relisting of the matter for a hearing with a magistrate? This minister has misled eight times; he should be sacked eight times and sent packing back to Western Australia, never to come here ever again. The minister is a disgrace!

The SPEAKER —Order! The time allotted for the debate has expired.

Question put:

That the motion (Mr Crean's) be agreed to.