Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 21 December 1988
Page: 4770

Senator SCHACHT —My question is directed to the Minister for Finance. What salary was paid to Mr Robert Wood during the period in which he was believed to be a senator? Does the High Court of Australia declaration that he was never elected entail any obligation to repay? What action, if any, has the Minister taken.

Senator WALSH —The salary paid-that is, not counting allowances-was of the order of $40,000. It is known that the High Court declared, in, I think, May of this year, that Mr Wood had never been elected to the Senate and that he had falsely declared that he was entitled to stand for the Australian Parliament when, in fact, he was not. That declaration, of course, ultimately led to litigation and a great deal of confusion and the court finally settled the matter. The advice that I have is that Mr Wood had no entitlement to that salary.

I could initiate legal action to recover the money or I could, under the powers of the Audit Act, which I administer, waive any notional or actual debt that exists. My first inclination, after the vacancy finally had been filled by Senator Dunn, was not to reverse any previous money flow--

Opposition senators-Bring Senator Wood back.

Senator WALSH —I would not go that far-because actual money had flowed in one direction and notional moneys had flowed in other directions. In other words, my first inclination was to let sleeping dogs lie. However, I did receive a letter from some solicitor acting on behalf of Mr Wood demanding the refund of a superannuation contribution of, in round figures, $4,500, which had been deducted from the salary to which the High Court found that Mr Wood was not entitled. Mr Wood has since seen a member of my staff and threatened to sue the Commonwealth, using legal aid funds, unless I approve an act of grace payment of around $4,500 to him. I will make one observation about that: it raises, I believe, the question of whether legal aid funds-that is, taxpayers' money-should be used for such a purpose; that is, for the purpose of facilitating extortion on the Commonwealth. I will take that question up with the Attorney-General, and possibly the Expenditure Review Committee, at the appropriate time. But I am still considering what action-if any-I will take in respect of this matter.