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Tuesday, 14 October 2003
Page: 21302


Mr CREAN (2:53 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister and it follows the answer he last gave. Given that you, Prime Minister, wrote to all ministers in August 1997 requiring that ministers involved in the Telstra sale should not acquire any interest in Telstra, what checks did you subsequently make to ensure that this directive and your ministerial code of conduct were being complied with? Why, given your last answer, is a contingent interest not any interest and subject to disclosure to you?


Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —The truth of this matter is that Senator Alston did not know of any suggestion until—I said `yesterday' in the earlier answer and that was wrong; it was last week—he was written to by the Australian Financial Review journalist Laura Tingle. He did not know until receiving her letter last week that he had knowledge of any suggestion that Messen—and Messen is the trustee of the Alston family trust—or Balmoral, which is the nursing home company, had any shares in Telstra. It is as simple as that, and there is absolutely nothing unusual about somebody not having any knowledge of the shares of a close family member. There is nothing unusual about that. The rules that are laid down do not mean that a minister's father, mother, wife or independent children cannot own shares in an area of portfolio responsibility. There is nothing that Senator Alston has done that has been in any way in breach of the guidelines, and nothing that has been alleged, even by the Australian Financial Review on this occasion, suggests otherwise.