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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2898


Senator MICHAEL BAUME(4.36) —Very briefly on the same topic, I should like to underline what Senator Sir John Carrick has just said and to point out one element of the December 1982 letter to which Senator Sir John Carrick referred which dealt with providing for allowance purposes that the principal place of residence was the place at which a Minister resides for most of the time or where his family was normally based. Where these places did not coincide Ministers were required to nominate that place where they resided when not engaged on official business. That is quite clear and uncomplicated. They were required to nominate that place where they reside when not engaged on official business. As Senator Sir John Carrick said, nothing has happened since then to change that clear statement-certainly nothing that has been released by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and certainly nothing contained in his letter of 17 September 1986.

Clear evidence of where a Minister resides when not engaged on official business, presumably, would be the place to which he returns having completed official business. In respect of the Minister to whom Senator Sir John Carrick referred, who is of course the Treasurer (Mr Keating), one has to look only at the destination of VIP flights at weekends to see where the Treasurer resides when not engaged on official business. I would not need a lot of convincing that late on Friday or Saturday night the Treasurer was getting a VIP plane back to Canberra to do official business. It is evident that he was returning to where he resided when not engaged on official business. In other words, he was entitled to get a VIP flight back to Canberra if he was returning home from official business; he would not be entitled to a VIP flight simply to come to Canberra, not on official business. That would be an improper use of those flights. The simple situation is that by his use of the VIP flights he has underlined the fact that Canberra is where he resides when not engaged on official business and therefore that is his effective home base-in other words, he has been wrongly stating his place of residence-or he has been wrongly using VIP flights. He cannot have it both ways.

I stress that this matter needs appropriate clarification. The Government has not clarified the position one bit in its letter to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard). It has avoided the reality. These rules would also affect office-holders in the Opposition. It failed to tell office-holders in the Opposition there was such a change at the time the so-called change was made. Opposition office-holders, as I understand it, do not know whether they are required to respond in terms of the December 1982 letter or whether those terms have changed. This affects office holders in the Opposition. The Government has to make up its mind. I stress that the letter sent by the Prime Minister to the Leader of the Opposition does not, to my mind, clearly establish whether the criterion set in December 1982 still stands in relation to Ministers being required to nominate that place where they resided when not engaged in official business.