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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1519

Senator CHANEY —My question, which is directed to the Minister for Finance, follows his answer showing his detailed knowledge of Commonwealth grants to Queensland and their expenditure or otherwise by the Queensland Government. I ask the Minister: Can he confirm the accuracy of the report that there is such a muckup in the New South Wales Department of Industrial Relations and Technology that there will be an estimated shortfall of $11.1m in spending on the community employment program and that, of the $103.6m available for Commonwealth expenditure in 1986-87 on employment programs in that Labor State, only $66.7m has been spent to date? Can the Minister confirm that the community employment program secretariat has such an abundance of funds that it has placed advertisements throughout Australia advising of their availability and inviting urgent applications with a closing date of 24 April? In view of this evident failure of the New South Wales Labor Government to expend these Commonwealth funds, will the Minister show the same expert knowledge about the position and will he assure the Senate that he will ensure that these moneys are not wasted in an end of year flurry of expenditure?

Senator WALSH —I note for the record that yet again the greatest National Party toady in the Senate, Senator Chaney, is attempting to protect the Queensland Government from the exposure of its financial misdemeanours.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Walsh, I ask you to withdraw that statement.

Senator WALSH —I withdraw the word `toady'. The greatest defender of the National Party that the Liberal Party has-that is, Senator Chaney-yet again is attempting to use his position as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate to protect the Queensland Government from the exposure of its financial misdemeanours. Those who have watched Senator Chaney and the Liberal Party in general over recent months in particular will not be surprised that the Liberal Party and its leaders have adopted that role.

Senator Chaney —On a point of order: The Minister is clearly debating the question; he is clearly not addressing himself to the question. He was asked a perfectly straightforward question about matters of which he seems to have the most expert and detailed knowledge with respect to Queensland and an abysmal ignorance with respect to any Labor State. He has refused to follow up allegations of the most peculiar activities of the State Government of Western Australia with respect to the Fremantle Gas and Coke Co. We now find that, as usual, he takes refuge in personal abuse and vilification when he is asked a question about the activities of a Labor Government. Mr President, I ask you to bring this parliamentary hypocrisy to an end.

The PRESIDENT —I ask Senator Walsh to direct himself to the specific question that was asked by Senator Chaney, not the previous question.

Senator WALSH —Certainly, Mr President. I resent being called a hypocrite by the greatest hypocrite that the Senate now has. I do not seek refuge in the Standing Orders; I can take it as well as give it, unlike some of the hypocrites sitting across the aisle. Queensland has a very long history of misuse of Commonwealth funds. It goes back at least a decade. I know there have been allegations about New South Wales. I have seen a report in the Press. I believe I saw a subsequent Press report which answered, at least substantially, the allegations that have been made. I do not have any formal advice from Mr Willis who, of course, is the Minister responsible for the community employment program. I will seek that advice. In response to Senator Chaney's totally gratuitous and hypocritical reference to the Fremantle Gas and Coke Co Ltd I point out that no Commonwealth funds were involved.