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Tuesday, 8 March 2005
Page: 31

Senator JACINTA COLLINS (2:40 PM) —My question is addressed to Senator Hill as Minister for Defence. Can the minister confirm that Sir Laurence Street, former Chief Justice of New South Wales, was secretly appointed last month as a probity adviser on a $6 billion navy shipbuilding contract? Can the minister explain why there was no formal announcement of this decision? Can the minister confirm that this decision was taken at the behest of the Prime Minister, following representations from one of the bidders with concerns that the tender process administered by the minister would not be completely open and fair?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —It is normal practice for Defence to have probity advisers in relation to major contracts. Sir Laurence Street was selected and asked to do that job by the Secretary of the Department of Defence, and I am advised that there was no knowledge of the Prime Minister or his office in that appointment.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, are you suggesting that the Prime Minister had no involvement in this decision; or is it true, as suggested, that his office did, which indicates a lack of confidence in your activities?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —I am clearly suggesting that he had no involvement at all and that the article in the paper was therefore wrong.