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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7158


Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (3:17 PM) —I only heard the tail end of Senator Alston's contribution. I thank those who drew my attention to it. As senators would realise, Senator Alston has now spoken about this at quite considerable length in this chamber. I think there have been two matters of public interest speeches, each of 15 minutes duration. Senator Alston made many a grand claim and he referred this matter to the ICAC in New South Wales. I am not aware of the document that Senator Alston refers to. I am of course aware of all those documents, which he has referred to again, that were tabled in the Senate a considerable time ago—I think in mid-2001. As I have said before, I behaved absolutely properly in this. Senator Alston did accuse me previously of using my public position to exert political influence for private gain. I have got no idea what happened after the reference to ICAC. Apparently they have responded to Senator Alston.

I do know this—and I would refer anyone who is interested to it. I doubt anyone is, because Senator Alston has been spectacularly unsuccessful in interesting anybody in this. That is because when people look at the facts of this particular matter they are absolutely satisfied that not only did I act properly but I acted at great personal cost. This matter ended with an excavation for a sewer line under my house that caused persistent flooding. I personally spent over $20,000 to fix this particular problem. I have indicated to the Senate and shown the two journalists in the press gallery in this parliament who are interested my personal documents in relation to this. I took out a second mortgage on my home to fix a problem that should never have arisen.

Senator Alston is still speaking about it in this chamber 6½ years after the event. That is his right. I said at the time that I could not care less who he referred this matter to and I still do not, even though I am not aware of the outcome of any of those particular references. I made it very clear from day one in relation to this particular matter—and I do not know how it relates to the matter that is being discussed in the chamber today—that I paid my contribution to that work. I do not think Senator Alston understood it at the time. As far as I know, he still does not understand it. Of course I did not pay Sydney Water; I paid the contractor. I paid my contribution towards the extension of that sewer line under my house. The sewer line should never have been built—but it was—and has never been used. It remains an extension to a vacant block. I was informed as recently as two months ago that there has never been any intention for anyone to use it at any stage. I am also told, for what it is worth—


Senator Alston —Mr Deputy President, I rise at this late point on a point of order, otherwise I think Senator Faulkner will talk the matter out. I want to make it plain that, as Senator Faulkner himself has said, he has not heard what I have said, so he should take a considered opportunity to respond and not treat this as the end of the matter.


Senator Cook —Point of order!


Senator Alston —Just a moment.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Resume your seat, Senator Cook. I will take this point of order first.


Senator Alston —ICAC said to me that it was their policy to require the payment to be made by the customer but where people complained loudly enough they changed their mind. That is what they said in relation to Senator Faulkner. For Senator Faulkner to simply say—


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! What is the point of order?


Senator Alston —For Senator Faulkner to say that he paid certain moneys has nothing to do with it. I am simply saying on the point of order that Senator Faulkner should not regard this as a sufficient response to a matter that he did not hear.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Alston, through that I did not find a point of order being raised by you. I heard `debate' and that is why I asked Senator Cook to remain silent for the moment.


Senator Cook —My point of order has now been ruled on by you, Mr Deputy President, but the point of order was—


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —If it has been ruled on, Senator Cook, let us proceed. There is no point of order.


Senator Cook —If I may, Mr Deputy President, there was no intention by Senator Alston to raise a point of order at all. He never addressed the chair in the appropriate manner and he never referred to a reference in the standing orders. He abused the institution of a point of order to engage in a diatribe and to restate a smear. He should have been sat down immediately it became obvious that there was no such point of order. That is my point of order.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Cook, on your point of order, there is no point of order. I was listening very closely to what was being said by Senator Alston in his point of order and I was hoping that at some stage he would come to a point of order. I did not hear a point of order. I ruled that there was no point of order. I would ask Senator Faulkner to proceed.


Senator FAULKNER —Of course, I did not know that Senator Alston was going to address this matter and I did not hear all his remarks, but I can again say absolutely clearly to anyone in the press gallery who is interested—and I doubt anyone is—that they can get in touch with me and they can look at all the documents. I want to say this, and I will say it to the Senate very clearly: anyone who is interested in this matter is entitled to look at all my financial records—all records. I categorically deny any allegation by Senator Alston or anyone else that I used political influence in relation to this matter. I did not. Senator Alston has never had any return from his efforts on this matter. As I have said before, if I had influence, that sewer line would never have been extended under my house. I certainly would not have had to pay thousands of dollars towards it, and I certainly would not have had to pay in excess of $20,000 to fix the problem that was caused by it. I accepted the decision; I put the sewer line through. There was no political influence and this is an outrageous slur. I am more than happy to answer any questions in relation to this matter. If any journalist— (Time expired)