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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 701

Senator ALSTON —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction. I refer the Minister to the comments she made on the front steps of Parliament House this morning when she said that she had asked the Minister for Housing and Construction earlier this week to ensure that her briefing papers were updated and to her comment:

Mr West is responsible for the brief that comes from him to me.

Is the Minister saying that it was Mr West's fault that the brief did not agree with the Government's misleading line on interest rates? Why have the Minister and her colleagues attempted to shaft the hapless senior public servant who is unable to defend himself? Does she or does she not accept full responsibility for the information she provided to the Senate yesterday?

Senator RYAN —Senator Alston appears to have read a transcript of what I said on the steps of Parliament House. Therefore, he would also have read that I said very clearly that I was not blaming a public servant. I then explained the principle of the Westminster system which is that Ministers take responsibility for matters within their portfolios.

Senator ALSTON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The Minister's non- answer referred only to that aspect of my question regarding Dr Hawkins. The first part of the question was whether she stood by her statement that Mr West was responsible for the brief. I ask again: Is she saying that it was his fault that the brief did not agree with the Government's misleading line on interest rates?

Senator RYAN —I think that Senator Alston should seek some advice from his colleagues who have been Ministers and find out how this place operates.