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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2065


Senator CHAPMAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Now that it has been confirmed that a heater was installed at taxpayers' expense in the Prime Minister's dog's sleeping quarters at the Lodge, would the minister like to correct his misleading answer to me last November denying its existence? Was he misinformed by officers of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet prior to giving me his supplementary response? Or was he correctly informed of a heater being installed for Ruben's comfort, but deliberately misled the Senate? Was the Senate misled to protect the Prime Minister from further embarrassment, following the teak Thai table, Gould prints and sacked housekeeper revelations?


The PRESIDENT —I call on the Minister for Defence, Senator Ray. I am not sure what this has to do with defence.


Senator ROBERT RAY —Mr President, I guess it has to do with defence inasmuch as Senator Gareth Evans was overseas on government business and I had the role of representing the Prime Minister in this chamber when I was asked the question. I have not looked at that question for several months, but I do clearly remember what the question was, and that is what I answered: `Was a dog kennel put in—


Senator Hill —You said Ruben could stay out in the cold.


Senator ROBERT RAY —Let me repeat my answer to this earth-shattering question. Mr President, can you not tell that those opposite have an open question time today, put on by Senator Hill just to prove that there will never be a palace revolution, because they could not organise anything. Of all the matters of national importance that could be considered, we return to Ruben again. This is the answer I gave, and I am sorry to be repetitive:

Earlier I was asked by Senator Chapman whether a dog kennel at the Lodge had been centrally heated.

That is what I was asked. I said:

I am advised—

I said `advised'; I am always careful—

by officers of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet that there is one dog kennel at the Lodge—

that is true, built, I understand, by the Prime Minister personally, but that is additional—

that it was either bought or built by Mr Keating and that there is no airconditioning, central heating or any other type of heating in the dog kennel. So, as I understand it, Mr Keating's dog has to suffer the vicissitudes of the Canberra winter like all other Canberra dogs.

Clearly, that last part of the answer is an assumption on my part. I have not gone over and actually looked at or slept with Ruben at the Lodge, and nor do I intend to. I make this open offer to Senator Chapman, that any time he wants to go over to the Lodge and sleep with Ruben and see what his circumstances are, he is welcome to do it.


Senator CHAPMAN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I regret that even Senator Ray has so succumbed to the Prime Minister's imperial style that he treats extravagant wastes of taxpayers' money with such levity. I ask the minister why he seeks to avoid this issue by playing with semantics. I clearly asked whether heating had been provided for a dog kennel—not in a dog kennel—and that was a broader question because it was reasonable to assume at that time that the dog kennel was the dog's sleeping quarters. What we have discovered is that the dog sleeps, not in the kennel, but in the vestibule which has been heated for his benefit. Not only did Senator Ray mislead the Senate, but also the department, in response to the Sunday Telegraph's freedom of information request which that paper asked to be interpreted broadly, misled in the answer it gave. Is the department responsible for this misleading or is the minister responsible? If it is the department, what action is the minister going to take against the departmental officers responsible?


Senator ROBERT RAY —Even the greatest ignoramus in the world would realise that the second part of Senator Chapman's question about the responsibilities of the Prime Minister and FOI rests in questions to Senator Gareth Evans. Senator Chapman should realise that. He should not tell me here that it is semantics to accurately answer a question because, if I were not to accurately answer a question about the dog kennel which was installed and built at the Lodge, those opposite would say I was misleading the Senate. Senator Chapman has made a total dope of himself over this, and he should retire hurt.