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Thursday, 2 June 1994
Page: 1198


Senator CHAPMAN —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Justice. Is it a fact that former senator Graham Richardson authorised decisions in relation to the granting of mining leases at Shoalwater Bay in Queensland, which provided a significant financial benefit to his good friend Peter Lawrence? Is it a fact that the Queensland Criminal Justice Commission has recently heard evidence from a brothel operator on the Gold Coast, Jacqueline Leyden, that on at least two separate occasions in 1991 Senator Richardson was provided with prostitutes at Lawrence's Sea World Nara Resort? Is it a fact that Dianne Pearl Carr, the current wife of Peter Lawrence, contributed $20,000 on 7 September 1992 to the Australian Labor Party in Queensland? Can the minister assure me that there is absolutely no connection between this series of events?


Senator BOLKUS —Mr President, it goes on, and the responsibility does not end with Senator Chapman. Yesterday Senator Chapman came into this place and asked questions again on this particular issue. I went out again last night and checked the questions that Senator Chapman raised here yesterday, and I put these sorts of assertions, these sorts of questions, in the same category as the ones we had yesterday.

  Shoalwater Bay as a decision was taken by cabinet. As former Senator Richardson said in the paper this morning, there was an overwhelming vote in cabinet for the decision that was taken. I must say that it was that very same cabinet that took a decision later down the track to have an inquiry into Shoalwater Bay. That inquiry led to the report that came out yesterday, presented by Senator Faulkner, and I must say a good report it is as well.

  Let us go back to the credibility of Senator Chapman when he asks these sorts of questions. Yesterday Senator Chapman asked me whether the Attorney-General had been briefed on the AFP's Operation TUB. He asked whether the minister was aware that Karlos, a key party to the allegations and so on concerning Senator Richardson, is known by Queensland authorities to have been a target of the AFP's Operation TUB. I went out and checked once again what basis Senator Chapman had for his question. I found out in relation to question one—


Senator Alston —Could I take a point of order, Mr President?


Senator BOLKUS —You do not like it, do you? You come in here and stir all you like but you do not like it.


Senator Alston —The point of order is simply one of relevance. Senator Bolkus—

  Government senators interjecting


Senator Alston —Just a moment. I know you are embarrassed. Mr President, there is a very important issue here. If Senator Bolkus wants to respond to yesterday's question, he will have every opportunity to do it after question time today. He has been asked a specific question. We are entitled to an answer to that question and no other, and I invite you to direct him to answer today's question.


Senator Robert Ray —On the point of order, Mr President. Senator Chapman comes in here and makes accusations. He does not put forward any supporting evidence. It is up to Senator Bolkus, if he wishes, in answering that particular question to go to the credibility in the general line of questioning that Senator Chapman has had, especially when Senator Chapman does not have the courage to make the 25-yard walk out of here to say what he says because he is a gutless wonder, he is afraid of being sued. If he really believes it, he should have the courage to walk the 30 yards.


Senator Kemp —On the point of order, Mr President, I have a list of Presidents here who have ruled that answers must be relevant to the questions. I will not read them out, but if senators want to read them I will give this to them. There are rulings after rulings by Presidents to the effect that all answers must be relevant to the question.


Senator Alston —Mr President, before you rule on the matter, I think it is very important that we take account of what Senator Ray had to say because essentially he argued to you that it was proper for Senator Bolkus to indeed reflect on the credibility of Senator Chapman. Now standing order—

  Government senators interjecting


Senator Alston —Just a minute! We know you can dish it out; just learn to take it for a moment, will you? Standing order 193(3) says:

A Senator shall not use offensive words against either House of Parliament or of a House of a State or Territory Parliament, or any member of such House, or against a judicial officer, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on those Houses, members or officers shall be considered highly disorderly.

This is a clear and deliberate attempt to cast imputations of improper motives on Senator Chapman. The question is a very simple one. We know you are acutely embarrassed by it, but the least you can do is attempt to answer it.


Senator Bolkus —Once again on the point of order, what we have had today and what we had yesterday—as we had a number of days before—was a continuation of questioning by Senator Chapman in respect of former Senator Richardson, questioning arising from information which he has received from or through the Criminal Justice Commission of Queensland, questioning which goes to Senator Richardson's credibility and reputation. What happened yesterday and what happens today is very much part of that general question that Senator Chapman is raising as to the credibility and reputation of a particular person.

  In answering a question in respect of that, it is very much my right to inform the Senate fully of the allegations made about that person and about how those allegations should be treated. That is precisely what I am doing and that is precisely what the opposition's leadership both here and in the other place is concerned that I do not do. There is no difference in that leadership now from what it was two weeks ago. The spring cleaning has not happened. They are as sleazy now as they were before. That is what I am trying to prove.


The PRESIDENT —Order! You have made your point of order. On the question raised by Senator Kemp—he referred to a number of rulings that have been made on relevance: of course I have no argument that answers should be relevant, just as all comments in this place should be relevant. The question is not that, and those statements are very general statements that have been made in various rulings. The question is how you decide on how relevant a ruling is. When you get a very broad-ranging question, it is impossible for me to judge on the relevance of it.

  With regard to Senator Alston's point on standing order 193, I listened to the point made by Senator Ray very carefully. What he said was that there was a reflection on the line of questioning—not on Senator Chapman—used by Senator Chapman. I see nothing of concern in that. There is no point of order. I call Senator Bolkus.


Senator BOLKUS —As I was about to say, the reputation of former senator Chapman is being questioned here—


Senator Hill —On a point of order, Mr President: the minister immediately gets into further—


Senator BOLKUS —He said there was no point of order.


Senator Hill —But you have gone on again. I am taking a separate one. The minister reintroduced the subject of Senator Chapman's credibility—


Senator Gareth Evans —He was answering the question, you goose.


Senator Hill —Just shut up for a minute, will you?


The PRESIDENT —Order!


Senator Hill —He reintroduced the subject of Senator Chapman's credibility. The question that was asked of the minister was whether he could assure the Senate—


Senator Faulkner —Hanging on by your fingernails.


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Faulkner, it is not helping things.


Senator Hill —He was asked if he could assure the Senate that three separate events were not related. If he cannot do that, of course there is the suggestion of political corruption. There is no more serious matter that can be raised in this place. The minister should be prepared to assure the Senate that these three events are unrelated. Why can he not do that? Why can he not answer the question that he was asked? Why can he not be directed by the Chair to answer the question that he was asked, not the question of yesterday?


Senator Gareth Evans —On the point of order: anybody, as a member of parliament, a senator, can walk into this place and make any allegation at all against anybody he chooses, however sleazy, however without any supporting evidence. It is entirely proper for a minister in answering such a question to draw attention to the absence of supporting evidence. It is entirely proper to draw attention to the fact that if there is supporting evidence, that supporting evidence should be strong enough to be able to withstand scrutiny outside the door of this place, not just inside this chamber. For a minister in reply to make those sorts of points about the kind of question that Senator Chapman is asking is absolutely within the history of the precedence of the conduct of this place. The only thing that is outside the history of this place is the squalor of Senator Chapman's contribution to it.


Senator Vanstone —On the point of order, Mr President: before you rule on that point of order, in relation to the remarks made by Senator Evans, which are similar to other remarks he has made in the same vein and supported by Senator Ray, I ask you to consider what is the point of the wealth of common law, if you like, in relation to parliamentary privilege if any fact we raise in this place or any allegation we make in this place must be able to stand up outside. If it must be able to stand up outside, there is no point in parliamentary privilege whatsoever. If you support him, you are basically saying there is never a need for senators to come into this place and raise a concern, the details of which they are unsure about, because they want to see the facts. If you rule in his favour, you are ruling against parliamentary privilege and it will be your death.


Senator Cooney —On the point of order, Mr President: I took on board what Senator Vanstone said—


Senator Vanstone —He said it, too.


Senator Cooney —That is true, Senator, but what Senator Hill said is right: the accusation made here today of political corruption is about the most serious accusation that anybody could make. Senator Hill quite properly pointed that out. However, the point is that, if that is how serious the accusation is, there ought to be a great deal of evidence to support it. That is what has been put. It is not the sort of thing where somebody has said, `Look, you didn't bow to the President when you came in'—which may be a great sin. It is not that sort of an accusation. It is the most serious accusation one could make. If it is going to be serious, there ought to be plenty of evidence to support it.


The PRESIDENT —Order! I was asked to rule on a point of order that was taken about three words after Senator Bolkus had risen again to reply. In all conscience, I cannot rule on that point of order because I do not know what he was about to say. I have no objection whatsoever to Senator Bolkus drawing attention to the credibility of the line of questioning but I ask him to keep his answer to that, if that is what he is going to do, and not to the honourable senator involved.


Senator BOLKUS —Mr President, I remember the incident in respect of Shoalwater Bay very well. It was not former Senator Richardson who took a submission to cabinet on Shoalwater Bay. Just to show that what Senator Chapman has put up this afternoon is as fallacious as everything else he has put up, in fact I took the submission to cabinet on Shoalwater Bay. And does he want to know something else?—I got rolled on it. My recommendation was not to go ahead with the mining. I got rolled but I was pleased to see that before the election the government set up an inquiry. I am also pleased to see the results of that inquiry.

  So there is a huge chasm between what Senator Chapman put up and what the truth is. But we are used to that. Yesterday we were asked about Operation TUB. We were asked to draw Senator Richardson's alleged conduct into Operation TUB. I have been advised that TUB was the name given to an AFP operation conducted and concluded in 1983—10 years ago. Neither the current Minister for Justice nor the Attorney-General has been provided with a briefing on the matter. In relation to that person Karlos who was named, he was not a target of the operation—he was of the periphery.

  Mr President, what we have here is the sorcerer and his apprentice—Mr Nicholls from Adelaide, chased out of journalism there, has come in here, pulling Senator Chapman behind him through the sleaze gutter. We have a lack of leadership from Senator Hill and Senator Alston. According to the Macquarie Dictionary, leadership means to show the way, to guide. What are those two showing the way to, what are they guiding towards? They are guiding back into that gutter.

  If Mr Downer was showing new leadership, if there was new leadership, they would all come out of the sewer, but they have not. They are following Chris Nicholls and Senator Chapman like lemmings into the only game in this society that they know how to play—gutter politics.


Senator CHAPMAN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. We have had from Senator Bolkus an answer—or what purports to be an answer—to yesterday's question but he still really has not answered today's question. I ask him to please answer today's question, which has three parts. Again, can I seek an assurance that there is absolutely no connection between those events to which I referred?


Senator BOLKUS —Mr President, I have answered that question. I am concerned about the reputation of this place and I am concerned about the opposition raising these sorts of issues. The last person that I would have thought would raise issues involving NCA inquiries or inquiries by state-based organisations and commissions is Senator Chapman. There is an old saying, Senator Chapman, that people in glass houses should not throw stones, but those who do not live in houses at all will be affected very strongly by the rain. Just reflect on that very seriously.