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Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Page: 7159


Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) (3:25 PM) —What a stark contrast! For a whole week Senator Faulkner, as the Leader of the Opposition in this place, and his fellows behind him have been using question time to trawl the gutter to try to raise allegations against Senator Coonan. But, as soon as the blowtorch is slightly turned towards Senator Faulkner—and he is now racing out of the chamber—he cannot take it, like a glass jaw.

In his contribution, Senator Faulkner said that if there were anything of concern with his sewage pipe he would invite people to look at the documents before they make allegations. Isn't that in stark contrast to what Senator Faulkner and his troops did to Senator Coonan when they falsely alleged in this place in question time that Senator Coonan had made a fraudulent enrolment? They had not seen the document but they made the assertion. Indeed, Senator Faulkner's deputy, Senator Conroy, made that assertion publicly. The form and the document have now been presented. Senator Coonan's signature is not on it. Have we received an apology from either the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition? No—because there is no grace when it comes to the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this place. They will trawl the gutter and if they end up in a dry gully, in a dead end, what do they do? They just drop it and move to another smear. They do not even have the decency to apologise and say that they have used parliamentary privilege—indeed, abused parliamentary privilege—in an inappropriate way.

The Australian Labor Party, during these past few days, have been fumbling around like a Dad's Army trying to get some questions to make some mud stick on Senator Coonan. Those of us on this side who have the privilege to know Senator Coonan will vouch for her integrity each and every day. I know that Senator Coonan, for example, would not sit in a ministry that allowed the $36 million Centenary House rort which benefits the Australian Labor Party. And when I say it is a $36 million rort, that is $36 million above and beyond the market value of the property. Just in case people cannot remember, in the dying days of the Keating Labor government, the government entered into a contract with Centenary House—a Labor Party operation—to force the Auditor-General in there with a 15-year lease at exorbitant rates, which was completely and utterly uncommercial. At the end of the 15-year lease period, the Australian Labor Party, above and beyond what would be a fair and normal market rate, will have scooped $36 million into Labor Party coffers.

We know that sort of history; we know it as fact—and Labor have not denied it—yet we on this side have to listen to the galling exposition from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asserting that somehow we on this side say that greed is good and that we look after ourselves. `Action speaks so much louder than words,' I would say to Senator Conroy and his party. Their actions with Centenary House—for which they have never apologised and for which they have never sought to remediate—show that they are greedy, that they are unprincipled and that they look after themselves.

It is most unfortunate that the opposition in this nation have no policy to put before the Australian people and therefore think they can avoid criticism by the media for that by trawling the gutter and trying to raise allegations against the minister—none of which have stuck. I remind the Senate of an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on 9 April 1998 by Kate McClymont as to what happened in a royal commission when a certain senator wished to have his name repressed because of his relationship—(Time expired)