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Monday, 2 December 2002
Page: 6840

Senator CONROY (3:14 PM) —What a tangled web we have seen weaved today by the Robert Dean of New South Wales politics. We have a situation where we asked a simple question of the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer: did she witness the enrolment form of Mr Rogers? Did she witness it or not? She has gone scurrying off to check to see whether her signature is on it. What the signature would reveal would lead to Justice Rogers having to explain the real reason that he transferred his enrolment well after, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the renovations had finished.

Senator CONROY —The minister wants to stand up and say, `This is where I lived. I have made a mistake in my forms. It is all my PA's fault.' The minister wants to say that, and what you have here is the minister who is in charge of tax revenue, the Assistant Treasurer—

Senator Ferguson —Federal tax.

Senator CONROY —Federal tax revenue. What we are seeing here, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, has not been denied today by the minister, who had every opportunity to do so. She could have been on her feet now. She could have been on her feet in question time—

Government senators interjecting

Senator CONROY —clarifying that. In fact—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senators on my right, you have had your chance. You will have further opportunity in the debate.

Senator CONROY —What matters here is whether or not the minister—

Senator CONROY —witnessed this enrolment form and knew whether it was a true enrolment form. That is what was asked; there is no aspersion there.

Senator CONROY —It is a very simple question.

Senator CONROY —Despite the interjections from the other side—who desperately do not want the truth to come out— why didn't the minister clarify this when she had the chance? Not once, not twice and not three times did she take the opportunity to set the record straight.

Senator CONROY —In the other place the Prime Minister, in question time—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Campbell, I have been very tolerant of your interjections. You have had your chance to have a say and you did have your say. There are others on your side who will continue the debate. Whilst you might not like or agree with what Senator Conroy is saying, he has the right to be heard in reasonable silence. I do allow reasonable interjections and I can understand, in a debate of this nature, that people will interject. But I ask you to desist from the constant interjection that is taking place.

Senator CONROY —What the records show is that for the purposes of ASIC and for the purposes of filling out forms, when it is convenient for Justice Rogers to live in Woollahra the forms say he lives in Woollahra. But when it is convenient for tax purposes—

Senator Hill —Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I heard what you said, and it is true that in this business we have to be able to take an attack. But this is not an instance of Senator Coonan taking an attack; this is a personal and offensive attack against a third party, who happens to be her husband. That is obviously what is reasonably—I respectfully suggest—enraging Senator Campbell. I suggest to you, Mr Deputy President, that you suggest to the honourable senator that in his speech he concentrate his attack upon a senator rather than a person who is not here to defend himself. If he does so, I think he will be taking a step in the right direction in terms of his responsibilities as a senator.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There is no point of order. I am listening closely to the remarks being made and, where necessary, I will draw the senator's attention to sticking to the debate.

Senator CONROY —I acknowledge the point you made, Senator Hill, but if you had actually listened to what I said amongst the shouted abuse coming from the other side, you would find that at no stage did I make any substantive allegation. I accept your point that it is important to be careful here, but I draw the chamber's attention to the following excerpt from today's Sydney Morning Herald, when the paper asked Mr Rogers whether he paid land tax on the property.

Asked whether he paid land tax on the property, Mr Rogers said: “I didn't pay for the period we were there because it was my principal residence.

The word `we' involves the minister. `We' means `the minister and I'. So while it is convenient for tax purposes for Justice Rogers to say, on the one hand, `We lived in the weekender,' Senator Coonan stood up here and said, `I have lived always, except for a very short period, in Woollahra.' That is the tangled web we have. The tangled web comes straight from this minister's behaviour. The minister should come in here, as the Prime Minister indicated she would in the other place in question time, and set this matter straight. Did she not live at Woollahra? Did she live in this weekender? Did she witness this enrolment form? Was tax being avoided? Was the sole purpose of this to register with ASIC because it was beneficial to be in Woollahra and register in the other place for land tax purposes? The Prime Minister expected her to clear this matter up in here today, and this chamber has seen absolutely nothing that clarifies this. It is very convenient—(Time expired)