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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 6995

Senator COOK (2:37 PM) —My question is to Senator Coonan, the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Revenue. I refer to the minister's obligations under the Prime Minister's code of conduct. Can the minister confirm that, for the period in which she was a director of Endispute Pty Ltd—that is, for the second half of 2001—the only other director, her husband, also listed his address on ASIC documents as Rosemount Avenue, Woollahra? During this entire period, wasn't the company director also declaring to the AEC that his principal place of residence was Paradise Avenue, Clareville? When did the minister herself become aware of these dual claims of principal places of residence more than an hour's drive apart?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —I do not think it does relate to my ministerial code of conduct. I am having difficulties seeing how it could. In any event, I have today tabled a statement from my husband which sets out chronologically the arrangements that applied over a period of time, and I have nothing to add to that statement.

Senator COOK —Mr President, that did not answer any of the questions I put, but I ask a supplementary question. Isn't it also the case that Endispute has always had its registered address at Woollahra? Doesn't Mr Rogers regularly conduct business for Endispute from this address?

The PRESIDENT —That is patently out of order because you are asking the minister for an expression of opinion and you are asking the minister about something which is outside her ministerial responsibilities and which is to do with a family member.

Senator COOK —I rise on a point of order, Mr President. I put it to you, with great respect, that it is not out of order and it is appropriate for the question to be asked and to be answered. I do that by drawing your attention to Senate practice. I believe, with great respect, Mr President, that you were a member of the Senate when President Beahan ruled on questions to then Senator Richardson about his family affairs that it was appropriate, if the senator so chose, to answer those questions. Those questions were put by the now government, then opposition, to a minister at that time and that minister was required by the chair to answer those questions. That is a matter of historical fact. It is in the Hansard. You were present in the chamber at the time. I ask simply that you observe the same practice, as President of the chamber now, as was observed on that occasion when questions were being put to Senator Richardson about his family business when Senator Beahan was President of the chamber.

The PRESIDENT —I am led to believe that other presidents have ruled out of order matters outside the ministerial responsibility of a minister and they have consistently ruled out questions relating to family members. So my ruling stands.