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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 7004


Senator BRANDIS (3:23 PM) —Poor old Senator Ray—I really thought he could do better than that. The display we have seen in this chamber today has been a fine example of the three golden rules by which the Labor Party conducts its federal political affairs. Rule No. 1: never talk about policy. Not a word about policy have we heard today, as Senator Ian Campbell pointed out. Rule No. 2: don't be too bothered about how free you are with the truth. The number of lies, half-truths and innuendos that have been sprayed across the chamber this afternoon has been quite shocking.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Brandis, you cannot accuse senators of lying. I ask you to withdraw.


Senator BRANDIS —I withdraw. Rule No. 3: never climb out of the sewer. I dwell for a moment on the word `innuendo', because that is what it is. Senator Ray used the word himself. Innuendo is being piled upon innuendo, because there is no factual basis for the allegations that are being made.

The Clareville property has been the subject of a series of mischievous and quite false allegations. First of all, we had Senator Conroy in question time yesterday waving a document around and alleging—his question is recorded in Hansard—that Senator Coonan had falsely witnessed an electoral enrolment form. We now know that he had no such document—that the document he was waving around was not an electoral enrolment form at all but a theatrical prop. When asked, `Did you witness this document?' Senator Coonan, very truthfully and frankly, simply said, `I don't know, Senator Conroy; I'd have to have a look.' Nevertheless, in all the newspapers—in all the media—this morning the allegation is articulated as if it were true. That part of the case fell flat on its face with the first word of the first answer in question time today, after Senator Conroy rose to his feet and directly asked Senator Coonan whether she had signed Mr Rogers's electoral enrolment form at the Clareville property and her simple answer was no. All of that innuendo, all of the implications and all of the insinuations piled one upon another and then published through the national media today to smear Senator Coonan's reputation amount to nothing more than a falsehood—the sort of disgraceful innuendo which Senator Conroy has made his trademark.

The second allegation about the Clareville property, which we just heard from Senator Ray, was another cowardly attack on someone, not directly but through their family. The suggestion is that Senator Coonan's husband, former Supreme Court judge Justice Andrew Rogers, was practising electoral fraud. It is preposterous to suggest so. As anybody who knows the impeccable reputation of Mr Justice Rogers, as he then was, as a senior judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, as for many years the chief judge in the Commercial Division of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and as a patron and benefactor of many charities in Sydney, he is a great Australian. He is an eminent and distinguished Australian and it is pitiful—it is pathetic—that this Senate should be used by Labor Party politicians who are bereft of an issue to attack a man who has done more for this country than Senator Conroy, Senator Faulkner or Senator Ray will do in their entire public lives.

Nevertheless, Mr Rogers's statement published today does have a complete answer. Mr Rogers and Senator Coonan moved to Clareville during the renovations of Senator Coonan's house in Woollahra. Then, as Mr Rogers said in the bits of the statement that Senator Ray did not read, because of his extensive overseas commitments he continued to use Clareville as a residence. He said:

In this context I decided that I would stay at Woollahra when Helen was in Sydney and able to spend time with me but otherwise use the Clareville residence.

Because I regarded Clareville as my principal place of residence I transferred my electoral enrolment to there in 2001.

As you know, Mr Deputy President, that is the requirement, that enrolment be at the principal place of residence. Mr Rogers decided that that was where at that time he was spending most of his time and so, quite properly, he chose to enrol there. That very honest act has been sordidly distorted. (Time expired)