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Monday, 8 October 1984
Page: 1442


Senator WALSH (Minister for Resources and Energy)(10.48) —Mr Deputy President, it was my intention to seek leave to make a personal explanation on the assumption that debate on the Taxation Laws Amendment Bill, the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 4) and the Income Tax ( International Agreements) Bill would have finished before half past 10. It was not, so perhaps I could take this opportunity to put a matter straight concerning myself.

This afternoon, during Question Time, I referred to an inconsistency between a minute or memo received from the Department of Defence on 12 December 1980 and what I described, I thought accurately at the time, as a Press release issued on 4 October 1984. On the copy I have is printed: 'Text of Department of Defence Press Release of 4 October 1984'. I have since discovered that that in fact was not a Department of Defence Press release but was the transcript of a report which had been carried in a Queensland newspaper. I had been advised by my Department, in a minute dated 5 October, that the Department of Defence Press release yesterday would be inconsistent with our 1980 advice. An error had been made by an officer in my Department-I am not sure how; I have asked for an inquiry to be made-which led him to believe that this transcript of a newspaper report was an official Department of Defence Press release when in fact no Press release was issued. I understand that the Department of Defence is to submit to the Queensland newspaper in question a letter for publication. I could not make that statement by way of personal explanation but I thought it was desirable to do it at the earliest opportunity.

I turn now to the matters raised by both Senator Jack Evans and Senator Missen. I am not fully familiar, or even indeed as familiar as is Senator Jack Evans, with the matter he raised about road funding in Western Australia, so it would not be advisable for me to say too much about it except that there was clearly some confusion, at least within the Western Australian Public Service and perhaps on one local council, which led to the one or more State Ministers inadvertently incorrectly advising the Federal Minister. The Federal Government' s involvement in the issue is somewhat coincidental and only through a Federal Act which would have been inadvertently invoked by what has happened. I noted Senator Evans's request for the responsible Federal Minister for Transport, Mr Peter Morris, to have an inquiry into this matter, to defer funds for that road until the inquiry is completed and to pursue an alternative route. I certainly cannot respond definitively to that, but I will draw Mr Morris's attention to the points which Senator Evans raised. Perhaps he can take them up with Senator Evans by correspondence.

I think I can only say much the same about the matters that Senator Missen raised. I am not particularly familiar with the subject matter of his comments but I will see that they are brought to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden). I will suggest to the Minister anyway that he takes the matter up with Senator Missen by correspondence.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 10.52 p.m.