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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 6991

Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (2:18 PM) —My question is directed to Senator Coonan, the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer. I refer to the minister's claim yesterday that she had `complied meticulously with the ministerial guidelines' for the declaration of interests. I ask the minister how meticulous it is to declare her family home as an investment property, as she did in the form she lodged on 18 September last year. Can the minister also explain why she declared ownership of a property in Manuka in that same declaration whilst stating to the Senate yesterday that the Woollahra property `is the only property I own'?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —In terms of the issue of my property being declared inadvertently as an investment property—my goodness, if it were, you would have capital gains tax and problems with tax—it is in fact a residence. I did clarify the record yesterday when I said that the description of my home in Woollahra as an investment property was an error as it is my residence and that, in being transcribed from my earlier form, it had been inadvertently—

Senator Robert Ray —You didn't read it, you just signed it.

Senator COONAN —put in as an investment property. I have written today to the Registrar of Senators' Interests to advise of the error and have requested that the Register of Senators' Interests be amended to accurately reflect the status of my Woollahra property. The facts are not in any way in dispute. I regret that that error was made but I did take immediate steps yesterday to inform the Senate of the error the moment I became aware of it. I have also written apologising for the error and requesting that it gets corrected. The facts are straightforward. My property in Woollahra is my residence and— Senator Ray is correct—on the day that I signed my most recent statement I had limited time to review the document. I had absolutely no reason to believe that it had been incorrectly transcribed from my 1996 form, which talked about it being an investment property and which, at the time, it was. So there is not much of a mystery about it. I have written to correct it. What I said in reference to any other property—and it is in my press statement—is that I own one property in New South Wales, which is my home in Woollahra, and I have obviously got something that I live in in Canberra, and that is my only property.

Senator FAULKNER —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I ask the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer to explain why she declared ownership of her property in Manuka in the same declaration she has now corrected whilst stating to the Senate yesterday that the Woollahra property `is the only property I own'. Those are your words, Minister, in the Senate yesterday. Did the minister actually sign—

Senator Hill —In Sydney.

Senator FAULKNER —Check the Hansard record, Senator. Did the minister actually sign the declaration of interests which was lodged on 18 December? Minister, did you read that declaration—

Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr President, I raise a point of order. As Senator Faulkner should know, because he has been here long enough, any question has to be addressed through the chair and not directly to the minister at the table.

The PRESIDENT —That is correct, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER —But it is okay for that shouting to occur across the chamber.

The PRESIDENT —Shouting is disorderly, as you well know.

Senator FAULKNER —Mr President, did the minister read the declaration before signing it? Does the minister stand by her claim that the declaration she has now corrected was `meticulous'?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —What I said was that I had complied with the ministerial code of conduct meticulously, and I have. What I was referring to yesterday was the distinction between the allegation that I had some interest in Clareville and an interest in the property at Woollahra. It was in that context that I said that I owned only one property. My declaration of interests very clearly refers to the fact that I have some accommodation in Canberra. That is a public record and open for all senators—and, presumably, any member of the public—to see.