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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1688

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy) —by leave-Just before the dinner break I was speaking to the paper on appointments to the Parliament House Construction Authority and making the point in passionate agreement with Senator Lewis and Senator Missen that if it had been the case that Sir John Overall, Sir Bernard Callinan and Mr Ling had their services with the Authority terminated without their knowing about it before they read it in the newspapers, it would have been a matter of disgraceful maladministration. I remain of the view that if that had been the circumstance it would indeed have been something for which the Government should be profoundly apologetic. However, over the dinner break I had the opportunity of checking the matter out, as I said I would, with the Minister for Territories (Mr Scholes) and his office. I have been assured by the Minister that we were proceeding on a false premise and that there was a notification of the gentlemen in question of the Government's intention before the matter was made the subject of a Press release.

To set the record straight, the Minister for Territories has advised me that he invited Sir Bernard Callinan, Sir John Overall, Mr Robert Ling, Mr Neil Macphillamy and Sir Laurence Muir, to his Parliament House office on Tuesday, 9 April. At those meetings Mr Scholes advised each member of the Authority of his intentions regarding their reappointment. Honourable senators no doubt will wish to note that these meetings took place 14 days before Mr Scholes's ministerial statement on 23 April on appointments to the Parliament House Construction Authority. Of course, the Press reports that were made followed that statement in the House of Representatives on that day. Mr Scholes said that he regretted that the statement was not being made concurrently in both chambers but the Senate had risen before the statement could be made.

In think that is the clearest possible indication from the Minister that perhaps there had been some misunderstanding on this issue. The Minister in fact did communicate his intention not to reappoint, for the reasons that have been stated to the gentlemen in question. In those circumstances, the dire characterisation I gave of the circumstances before dinner would appear not to be justified.