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Wednesday, 17 October 1984
Page: 1850

Senator ROBERT RAY —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Will the Government follow past practice by allowing Commonwealth public servants to brief Opposition shadow Ministers in anticipation of their being Ministers after the next election? What would be the cost of such briefings? Does the Minister feel that such expense is justified?

Senator BUTTON —If it has been past practice to allow Commonwealth public servants to brief members of the Opposition shadow Ministry, this Government would follow that past practice. I do not recall it happening on the previous occasion we had an election, but it may well have.

Senator Crichton-Browne —You do not remember the case of the little deficit that the Treasurer is talking about.

Senator Grimes —That was after the election.

Senator BUTTON —I do not think that is the sort of information being sought by the honourable senator who asked the question. Of course, as was pointed out by way of interjection, that information became available after the election rather than before it. I am sure that the past practice would be followed. Indeed, I do not actually anticipate a change of government, but whether that be so or not, a briefing of Opposition spokesmen on a wide variety of issues would be highly desirable. Whatever the result, we might have a better informed debate after the election.