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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1672

Senator MICHAEL BAUME(10.30) —Tonight I wish briefly to draw the Senate's attention to what I believe to be the disgraceful misuse of government resources by the Labor candidate for the Federal seat of Gilmore. I refer the Senate to articles appearing in the Young Times on 13 January 1987 and in the South West News on 5 December 1986 in which Mr John Wright, the Labor candidate, offers pensioners kits advising them of his attitude to pensioners in that electorate. He says:

Any person seeking a pension kit can obtain one by phoning John Wright on 062-75 2221 during working hours.

A call to that number is to a desk in the Australian Taxation Office, that is, the Commonwealth Taxation Office in Canberra. That is an absolute disgrace. What is more of a disgrace is that Mr Wright has arranged with his working colleagues to take orders on his behalf for the documents from people who ring in for them, and this is being done during Public Service working hours.

Senator Kilgariff —What is his position?

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —He is an officer in the tax department. He is often away from his phone because he appears to be able to flex off, I think is the expression, to visit this electorate that he is trying to win. It takes a bit of effort for him because he lives in Queanbeyan or Canberra, but the electorate is in the Goulburn area. He does not live in his electorate and no doubt that puts immense pressure on him to try to get into the area he is trying to win, but he does so at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. I hope that the Minister in the chamber, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Senator Gietzelt), will do something about this. I intend to table the newspaper clippings from which I quoted. I find it intolerable that this number is available during working hours.

That is only part of it. I now quote from a letter sent by the same Mr Wright to his supporters which has come my way and which I believe raises other matters of some concern. I do not want to go into the arrangements Mr Wright made with Senator Richardson's office about sending out his material with Senator Richardson's mail, allegedly at Senator Richardson's expense. I presume that it is at the expense of the Commonwealth. They can sort that out among themselves.

I want to deal at some length with a notice that I have in my possession to all Federal Australian Labor Party candidates in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory from the Australian Labor Party South East Region Strategy Committee-SERSC-Candidates' School. It is signed by Mr Ian Henderson, the Convenor of the Candidates' School Co-ordinating Committee, and is dated 17 December 1986. By the way, the contact point for reply and other information is Ian Henderson, ALP National Secretariat, PO Box E1, Queen Victoria Terrace, Australian Capital Territory, 2600, telephone 062-73 3133. I have no reason to believe that that is anything else but genuine.

In the notice, after inviting members and their campaign assistants to a candidates' school in Canberra on Saturday 30 May 1987, we find that the program of the school would include media training for candidates, campaigning and fund raising and political strategy. The last para- graph of the letter says:

The School is being planned and co-ordinated through SERSC with the support of N.S.W. Branch and the National Secretariat of the Party,

This is the bit that concerns me. It says:

and with the assistance of media advisers to the Federal Government.

We are all well aware of the extraordinary collection of media advisers being paid at public expense who now surround this Government. The Senate is entitled to require from this Government an assurance that the media advisers to the Federal Government, who will be assisting ALP candidates, are not doing so while on the Government payroll and, if they are the same media advisers who are on the Government payroll, the Senate deserves an assurance that part of their duties is not a requirement that in their so-called spare time they attend to give this kind of advice to Labor candidates.

The clear suggestion from this is that a Labor candidate can come along to this seminar and be advised by the same people who have been advising this Government at public expense. I believe that this is an absolute disgrace. I now seek leave to table this letter from Mr John Wright and also the newspaper clippings.

Leave granted.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —I thank the Senate. I now want briefly to refer to a matter I mentioned the other night, which involves Mr Colin Hollis, the honourable member for Throsby, who made some ludicrous, nonsensical, totally inaccurate and false accusations about my alleged use of a Commonwealth car. I demonstrated to the Senate the other night that it was totally wrong in fact, that I was listed as being here in a division at the time that I was alleged to have kept a Commonwealth car waiting outside a dentist, at the expense of the Government and the taxpayers. I have already demonstrated that there was no cost to the taxpayer; that this was absolute nonsense. Mr Hollis could well be described as `having made a mistake'. That is the kindly approach in the first instance, because he was apparently not aware of the facts. He is now aware of the facts and has persisted with this nonsense. He put out a Press release tonight which repeats basically the attack against me, except that he diminished the time from one hour and a half to just over one hour that the car was waiting while I was attending a dental appointment. He said that the information he got came not from the transport office or anyone in the Commonwealth car service, but `from a member of the public who saw the car arrive-not at 10.15 but earlier'. That is totally untrue. The Press release continues:

who passed the car several times while it was waiting, and then waited to see who came out. It was a member of the public who happens to be a constituent.

that is, a constituent of Mr Hollis's-

she had work in Canberra and passed the information on to him.

That is a total and deliberate fabrication. It could not possibly have happened, for a very simple reason. The car did not wait outside the dentist's surgery, because it could not. This particular dentist is in a mall upstairs in a set of offices, in a building where there are a lot of offices. There would be no knowledge on the part of any casual observer that a car that stopped in a street near a mall to let me out necessarily was related to a dentist who is 130 yards up the mall, upstairs in a set of offices. This is an absolute and total fabrication. Not only did the car not wait outside the dentist's surgery, but it did not even wait at the end of the mall. In fact it went to another street, an area of parking for Commonwealth cars in Civic, about 500 yards away from the dentist's surgery. I arranged to meet the car there 30 or 40 minutes later. There is no possibility of anyone pretending that it was possible to have seen me get out of the car and go to the dentist and then come out of the dentist and get into the car. No-one could claim to have waited outside because the car did not wait outside.

We have already established that all the rest of Mr Hollis's facts are an invention. We are now having more invention. Now that Mr Hollis knows the truth and persists with this nonsense I have, outside this place, said of Mr Hollis that his determination to continue spreading these kinds of lies about me shows him to be a liar and a cheat. I have said so without parliamentary privilege and I have invited him to sue.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Whatever you say outside may be all right, but you are not allowed to use those remarks inside the chamber, Senator. You should withdraw them.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —I withdraw the statements. However, I repeat that I have made them outside the chamber and I have invited Mr Hollis to sue. If Mr Hollis has any decency or integrity whatsoever, he will either apologise or repeat his totally false and fabricated assertions outside the privilege of parliament.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 10.41 p.m.