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Santoro share scandal unbelievable: PM -

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Santoro share scandal unbelievable: PM

Reporter: Greg Jennett

Prime Minister John Howard has described the share scandal that led to the resignation of Senator
Santo Santoro as unbelievable.

Transcript

TONY JONES: Hell hath no fury like a prime minister embarrassed and tonight Santo Santoro is
learning all about it. John Howard has declared the share investor and former minister
"unbelievable", refused to back his preselection and ordered an examination of aged care funding
decisions he made

As Greg Jennett reports from Canberra, tomorrow's Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper
will confirm the Prime Minister's worst fears about public reaction to the share affair.

GREG JENNETT: Back from war-torn Iraq, ready for combat in Parliament, John Howard was blindsided
in the Middle East by Santo Santoro's secret share stash. The long journey home has not mellowed
him.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER (7.30 REPORT): I'm angry, I feel let down and I think the Liberal Party
is entitled to feel let down over this.

GREG JENNETT: Nor does he hide the damage he expects the Santoro affair to cause.

JOHN HOWARD: The process has not been helpful for the Government, of course. I mean, we want
something like this like a hole in the head.

GREG JENNETT: It looks like a prophecy. As Santo Santoro fessed up to his 72 undeclared investments
on Friday, Newspoll was going into the field. The results in The Australian tomorrow will make for
grim morning reading for the Prime Minister. On the two party preferred count, Labor's piled on
another four points, a massive 61 per cent to the Coalition's 39. And in the preferred Prime
Minister stakes, Kevin Rudd's widened the gap again, 49 per cent to John Howard's 36.

JOHN HOWARD: Kevin Rudd's doing well in the polls at the present time but then there's a long time
before the next election.

GREG JENNETT: But Santo Santoro and his investments are guaranteed to remain in the news for a
while yet. Tonight, John Howard has ordered his new Minister for Ageing, Christopher Pyne, to look
into the allocation of publicly-funded nursing home places to a company run by Senator Santoro's
friend and Liberal Party member, Russell Egan Junior. Both Mr Egan and Senator Santoro have
previously denied any contact over the issue.

JOHN HOWARD: If there's anything untoward about that, I'm sure the new minister will tell me, and
I'm now giving him notice on your program to have a look at it.

GREG JENNETT: Just in case the reality of his plight hasn't fully sunk in, Santo Santoro may yet
count the Prime Minister on the growing list of Liberals who want him to pay for his mistake. Asked
whether the Senator should be on the Queensland's Liberal ticket at this year's election, Mr Howard
has stopped well short of backing him.

JOHN HOWARD: I think it's too early to be sort of saying anything like that. That is a matter for
the division in Queensland. I mean, there is - you know, he has resigned -

KERRY O'BRIEN: You're the Prime Minister; this man is a senator in your government.

JOHN HOWARD: I know that he's a senator in my government but as you know, in both political
parties, party leaders, you know, even as powerful as Robert Menzies don't decide who candidates
are.

GREG JENNETT: As he steps into Santo Santoro's shoes, Christopher Pyne is, like many Liberals,
wishing the pain of the last three days away.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE, MINISTER FOR AGEING: Well, I think that's over. Obviously we've moved on from
that.

KEVIN RUDD, OPPOSITION LEADER: The mood, I think, of the country is it's time to get back to work
and let's focus primarily on our alternative policy plans for the nation's future.

GREG JENNETT: That doesn't mean Labor won't find time for a few questions about Santo Santoro's
bulging share portfolio when Parliament resumes tomorrow.

(c) 2007 ABC