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Thursday, 18 November 2004
Page: 82


Senator McGAURAN (3:27 PM) —One of the commitments Labor made straight after their crushing defeat at the election, having heard the message from the Australian people, was that their economic credentials needed to be lifted before the Australian public would support them. We are into the second day of the 41st Parliament and they have forgotten that commitment already. The second question time of this parliament and they have jumped straight into the gutter. They have joined the false accusations, smears and innuendoes of the member for New England, because that is what they know how to do best. Forget about trying to establish their economic credentials. They are doing what they know how to do best. Even without the former Leader of the Opposition in the Senate on the front bench, they still have the talent to join the member for New England in smear and innuendo. Are we to believe, or are we entitled to believe, that nothing has changed at all with the Labor Party and that this will be the pattern for the next three years?

Senator Wong tried to be reasonable about the matter by saying that the Deputy Prime Minister has not adequately answered the charges. What a load of rubbish! By that comment alone, she and those on the other side have joined the member for New England in making a very serious accusation of corruption against the second highest office holder in this land. The Deputy Prime Minister not only adequately replied in parliament last night to the member for New England's accusations, but put them to rest—as did my colleague Senator Macdonald. I will read to Senator Wong and those opposite what Mr Anderson, the Deputy Prime Minister, said about these grave, serious charges against two men of integrity. He said:

... I just want to say that I completely repudiate the member for New England's allegations of improper inducements offered indirectly by Senator Macdonald and me earlier this year. I would make the first point that there was no meeting on 18 May; I was in Queensland, in Bundaberg, on the evening of the 18th.

Yet the member for New England claims that a meeting was held. He went on to say:

My position is quite simple in this matter. I repudiate completely the claims. I do not engage in corrupt behaviour. So far as I am aware, at all times I have maintained what I believe to be both the law and the spirit of the law in relation to Australia's electoral matters. I think that matters. I think it is important. I think that people who know me know that I think those things are important.

That was not good enough for Senator Wong or the members across the chamber; rather, they prefer to stand with the member for New England. I would back the integrity of the Deputy Prime Minister and my colleague Senator Macdonald against that of the flush-faced member for New England any day. He is a brooding member who is simply desperate for attention in this parliament—a lonely, insignificant Independent. The achievements of the Deputy Prime Minister and my colleague Senator Macdonald far outweigh anything the member for New England will do for New England or for the people of rural and regional Australia. The fact is this matter is under investigation by the police, and I know what their conclusion will be. I am sure the reason the member for New England decided to walk into this parliament and stir the pot under its protection is that the police investigation will find these two members of parliament innocent. Then the heat will be on the member for New England. He seeks their resignations. If the police investigation clears these two—and it will—he ought to resign.

Question agreed to.