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Wednesday, 31 August 1994
Page: 675

Senator TROETH —My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the minister's answer yesterday to my question regarding Mrs Kirner's astonishing behaviour in seeking massive compensation of $360,000 for her ill health. At the same time she could take her highly paid job, worth over $104,000 annually, offered to her by the Keating government. She also became state ALP President and chairperson of the Centenary of Federation Advisory Committee. How did Mrs Kirner explain that, at the same time, she was so ill she had to retire from the Victorian Parliament—that is, she could not even continue as an opposition backbencher—yet she was so fit that she could do a full-time taxpayer funded job? This matter has been the subject of parliamentary debate all this week. Has the government sought further information from Mrs Kirner which will help explain to the parliament and to the Australian taxpayer her contradictory claims?

Senator GARETH EVANS —This has been the subject of an attempted beat-up by the opposition all week. The truth of the matter is as I described it in this place yesterday. I have nothing to add to that. Mr Crean carefully took into account all these issues as to Mrs Kirner's health and capacity to handle the particular job that he was offering to her, and for which she was unquestionably well qualified, and made the judgment accordingly that she was in fact able to do the job. There are two separate contexts that are involved, and we have no further comment to make on them.

Senator TROETH —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. One statement would appear to contradict the other. Either she was so unfit that she needed compensation, or she was so well that she was able to take the job. The minister still has not explained that dichotomy, and I would like to ask him to explain why, in her retirement speech and in statements to the press, including her departure from the Victorian parliament, she did not mention that the reason was ill health?

Senator GARETH EVANS —My understanding is that the superannuation commissioners in Victoria did not in fact accept that she was as lacking in health as she said for the purposes of the particular statutory formula in that particular proposal. The honourable senator opposite is talking about a contradiction in fact, when there may not be one at all. The circumstances which led her to put the claim in and the way in which those assessments of Mrs Kirner's capacity to handle the job in physical terms were carried out was a matter for the relevant minister, taking into account the situation and the circumstances with which he was confronted. I respect his judgment in this matter, and there it stands.