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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6701

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (3:02 PM) —The high dudgeon of the Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law rings somewhat hollow. The high dudgeon in fact indicates that perhaps he might feel he is stepping one step closer to being Minister for Finance and Deregulation, and the Minister for Finance and Deregulation one step closer to becoming the Treasurer, because it is the Treasurer who is here to answer the charge that he has misled this parliament.

There has been much obfuscation about whether the question of the so-called email is the question that has to be answered. The real question to be answered is whether the Treasurer misled the parliament by saying that he had given no special attention to Mr Grant when all the evidence points to the fact that he has so given that special attention. Whilst we have heard a lot of mud being thrown around in this parliament, we should remind ourselves that it was the Treasurer back in 2000 who gave, in a brown paper bag, $1,400 to the Democrats and said there was nothing wrong with that either and that it was perfectly normal practice for political parties to give money to opposing parties. Equally, he is arguing now that there is nothing wrong with him giving special attention to somebody who is a mate of the Prime Minister and possibly even a mate of his.

The Prime Minister has said he will solve this problem by having the Auditor-General conduct an inquiry. This so-called inquiry is supposed to answer all the questions such that we will then see an end to any question of probity. There are a few things that have to be said about the so-called inquiry by the Auditor-General. I point out that the Auditor-General appeared before a public hearing this morning and he answered a number of questions relating to this so-called inquiry—and I happen to have asked a lot of those questions. The first thing to say is that the Prime Minister has not ordered an inquiry by the Auditor-General. The Prime Minister has written to the Auditor-General and asked the Auditor-General if he will conduct an inquiry—a performance audit—of I am not quite sure what because we did not see the letter. But he said that it is up to him as Auditor-General to decide whether he accepts the request of the Prime Minister to conduct such an audit. He also went on to say, when I asked him what would be the terms of reference, that it was up to him, the Auditor-General, to determine and set the objectives of that inquiry.

In the course of the public hearing this morning we then went on to discuss how it would be possible to have such an inquiry if there was not power exercised by the Auditor-General to ask the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to give evidence to that inquiry on oath—to be sworn and give that evidence. It is very important that we understand that the Prime Minister has not ordered an inquiry by the Auditor-General; it is up to the Auditor-General to determine whether he accepts it and then to set the objectives. The objectives must include taking sworn evidence from both the Treasurer and the Prime Minister and further they must include that all communications—faxes and indeed emails—between the Treasurer, his office and anybody else where there is supposedly evidence that other people were given the same advantage as Mr Grant must be seen. Because it is the tone of the letter, the tone of the assistance given to Mr Grant, that shows there has been special attention given. Unless we see the other so-called pieces of evidence, which we can then compare with that relating to Mr Grant, we will not have had a proper inquiry at all.

To questions this morning, the Auditor-General answered that he would consider whether or not he would take evidence from the Prime Minister or the Treasurer. He would not give an undertaking that he would, which, again, causes me great concern. I will end on this point, Madam Deputy Speaker, which is that, in pulling the Auditor-General into this grubby political mire, we are now having a political assurance investigation. This means that the Auditor-General, who has to be like Caesar’s wife and above suspicion, is being pulled into this quagmire of political humbug—the worst that we have ever seen.

The Leader of the Opposition has been quite correct in calling for the Treasurer to resign. There is sufficient evidence before the people right now for that to be done. If he wishes to refute it, then we need to see all the correspondence—the emails and faxes—on the public record.

Question put:

That the amendment (Mr Rudd’s) be agreed to.