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Tuesday, 20 November 2012
Page: 9171

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandDeputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (15:03): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Bob Carr) to a question without notice asked by Senator Fierravanti-Wells today relating to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.

We had a remarkable occurrence in the Senate at the beginning of question time when Senator Fierravanti-Wells asked about the United Nations Convention on Corruption and its domestic application within Australia, in particular to state and territory governments. The question was asked of a minister who was the Premier of New South Wales, the second largest government—the largest state government—in Australia.

The second supplementary question, might I remind you, was this:

Does the minister feel compromised in advocating Australia's support for the convention in the international arena given that, at the time Australia became a signatory to the convention, he, as Premier of New South Wales, presided over a government riven by corruption, as revealed by the Eddie Obeid scandal?

What was remarkable was Senator Bob Carr's answer to that question. It was a one-word answer, a monosyllabic answer: no. Senator Carr did not want to go anywhere near this issue. So petrified was Senator Carr of going anywhere near this issue that, in answering Senator Fierravanti-Wells' question, he actually conceded the premise. He did not even trouble to dispute Senator Fierravanti-Wells's assertion in her question that he, as Premier of New South Wales, had presided over a government riven by corruption.

I am bound to say that when we drafted this question we thought that the government might take objection to it—that they might take objection to the assertion implicit in the question. But they let it go—

Senator Lundy: Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Because of the way in which Senator Brandis is addressing this matter he is impugning something on Senator Bob Carr. I think it is inappropriate and I think you should rule it out of order. It is outrageous.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: It is a debating point, Senator Lundy. Senator Brandis, you have the call.

Senator BRANDIS: As I said, we thought, 'Perhaps the government will take umbrage at the question, with the assertion contained in it about Senator Carr's record as Premier of New South Wales.' Not only did they let it go by and pass without objection but Senator Carr himself let it pass without objection and merely said no, the shortest word he could think of, so that he could sit down at once—so fearful are the Australian Labor Party of opening up this issue.

The fact is that before the ICAC inquiry in Sydney today, and in recent days, the Australian public, and the New South Wales public in particular, have been astonished at revelation after revelation, which counsel assisting the inquiry has described as 'the greatest corruption scandal in New South Wales history since the days of the Rum Corps'. Do you know how much Mr Eddie Obeid and his family made out of a favourable re-zoning and a favourable ministerial decision by Mr Ian Macdonald—not our distinguished colleague Senator Ian Macdonald, but the corrupt Labor Party hack Mr Ian Macdonald? The ICAC hearing has heard that it was up to $100 million. And under whose period as the Premier of New South Wales, the leader of the Australian Labor Party and the senior politician of the New South Wales Right did Mr Eddie Obeid, Mr Ian Macdonald and Mr Joe Tripodi prosper? They prospered under the leadership of the now Senator Bob Carr.

It is all very well for Senator Bob Carr to flounce into the Senate and give us pious lectures about international relations. The real truth is that when Senator Bob Carr was the Premier of New South Wales he, at best, Horatio Nelson like, put the telescope up to his blind eye and said: 'Corruption, corruption? I don't see any corruption. Even though I'm the Premier, even though these are my ministers, even though this is happening on my watch, even though I have ministerial responsibility, I don't see any corruption.' Senator Bob Carr has a lot to answer for, as every single day's evidence in the ICAC hearing in Sydney reveals.