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Wednesday, 18 February 1987
Page: 164

Senator BLACK —In view of recent public commitments by the Queensland Premier to seek election to the House of Representatives at the earliest opportunity, can the Special Minister of State confirm whether this means the Premier is now a candidate under the terms of the Commonwealth Electoral Act and, as such, is the Queensland Premier obliged to account for the source of campaign donations and other assistance, including assistance provided by the State Government and Gold Coast businessman Mr Mike Gore?

Senator Chaney —I seem to recall, Mr President, that there is something in the Standing Orders about not requiring an expression of opinion in questions. It seems to me that quite clearly--

Senator Tate —There is an assumption there that I am going to give an opinion. You have not heard the answer yet.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, it is not the answer that I am objecting to, as that has not started; it is the question. Mr President, I refer you to standing order 99, which says that questions shall not ask for an expression of opinion and, secondly, for a legal opinion. I would have thought that the question might be struck out on either of those points.

The PRESIDENT —I listened carefully to the question. It does verge on seeking a legal opinion. However, I will allow the question on the basis that Senator Tate takes that into account when answering the question.

Senator TATE —Mr President, as I listened carefully to the question, it was never my intention to offer an opinion as to whether Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen would feel within the terms of the Electoral Act that have been indicated by Senator Black in his question. I certainly would not want to substitute myself for any court that may have to make such a decision. It may be useful to remind the chamber and the general public that under the terms of the Commonwealth Electoral Act it is a fact that a candidate is defined in relation to an election as including a person who has announced his intention to be a candidate in that election. Of course, if that person should then stand, within 15 weeks after the polling day in that election, it is required that the person give details setting out the total amount or value of all gifts, the number of gifts and the relevant details of each gift received by the candidate during the period that commenced on the day when such a person who has not been a candidate in a previous election has nominated as a candidate or announced that he or she would be a candidate. I think it would be very important for any prospective candidate to keep those provisions of the statute in mind. Mr President, I do not intend to apply them or purport to suggest how any particular person may fall within the terms of that legislation. It may be useful for candidates, though, also to have a look at the election funding and financial disclosure handbook, which I believe is put out by the Australian Electoral Commission, for further detail as to their responsibilities. I think taxpayers in particular are becoming more concerned about the funding of election campaigns.

Senator Hill —Not bad for an answer to a question without notice.

Senator TATE —I just happen to have a very good brief on the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I believe that taxpayers and the general public would be very concerned that the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act are strictly adhered to and I have no doubt that the Electoral Commission will ensure that that is achieved.