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Order In The House -

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(generated from captions) at men of the 19th century An image aimed so clearly artists of the 20th century. has provoked a critique from women When I first saw Manet's version, there was a tension there. in clothing of the time, and the two gentlemen were clad and these two guys lounging around? Why is this woman there naked it. Once I discovered The River God, It's a guy's fantasy. I didn't get and saw The River God version of it, I embraced that more. queen, if you want. I'm in charge, Because I sort of feel more like the to protect me. and these guys are there notions of how they thought before. For me it's about changing people's artist and putting work out there - That's the greatest part of being an some kind of conversation. that it provokes This view is great, from here. More than a picnic! What's going on here? What are they thinking? Don't get it. No, not that obvious. a model and they have a lunch break. Those are two painters and she's This gives another dimension. more... You can see right up there. You think so? Oh, yeah. Yeah. It's a menage a trois there? Think she's having In a leafy corner of New Jersey, of America's most popular sculptors. has been created by one a version of the Dejeuner I thought if I took something 3D...has this power. and give it a third dimension, that already is an icon, that would do something. And it does. I get postcards from Paris saying, they haven't seen it from the back!" looking at the painting, "All these people There's a sense of being there through the looking glass. a sense of going that are quite disturbing All sorts of things happen It's like that is a painting of this. And that's fun. like that becomes garbled. It... Authenticity and everything was imitating a famous painting. She thought at first the sculptor if it's a famous painting. I don't know And they're allowed to touch it. try to figure out what's going on. People think, shake their head and...

anywhere near Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe! You, of course, are not allowed she gets touched a lot! With the nude, I have a feeling Look at her face. Mm-hm. She's playing the innocent.

to ask questions. It's about forcing people

I mean, I think that Manet he had a little devil in him and he... twisting people's knickers. ..just had...had fun sitting on the banks of a river. dramatic subjects than four people There are many more that has given this image legs. It's precisely this understatement to dismiss it as a piece of shock It's precisely because it isn't easy on our imaginations for so long. that it has maintained its hold Our instinct, even today is to make sense of the Dejeuner. We're still looking for the pay-off. It's like a caption competition to explain the image. to say something witty Artists have taken this image of adding a caption and tried to do the equivalent

what is going on! by trying to suggest invites the viewer to participate. open for interpretation, The fact that it leaves itself in a similar dialogue with it to enter and engage It opens the door for artists from the past. as it has with its own sources

by young artists today. of almost everything produced Art about art is the theme unpunctured by kitsch imitations that controversy but itself remains Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe started as human character itself. It is as strange and forwards at the same time - It says you can look backwards with the art of the past. you can be modern and be engaged

painting that is also light-hearted. And you can paint an ambitious

extraordinary. These are unusual combinations, # ..And day's night today # When most guys today # That women prize today # Are just silly gigolos # So though I'm not a great romancer # I know that you're bound to answer # When I propose

# Anything goes! # Subtitles by BBC Broadcast - 2003

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This program is not subtitled Welcome to Order in the House, in Federal Parliament. a review of the week's business on our own set of values, We will act and can be trusted health decisions for ourselves, to make reproductive with those we trust. or to share that decision have had an abortion, An estimated one-in-three women

and I am one of those. A former girlfriend of mine were in a monogamous relationship, had an abortion when we

in my life from this consideration. and I cannot divorce that experience

a blind eye to multiple warnings Why did the Prime Minister turn was the biggest contributor that Australia to this immoral and shameful rort? of the Opposition had been followed, If the advice of the Leader be financing the suicide bombers. Saddam Hussein would still removing the Health Minister's power It was supposed to be a debate about to veto the drug RU486, to medical experts. and giving that power in favour of conscience, But with party lines set aside argument about abortion. it became a highly emotional allowed an amendment In 1996, this Parliament to the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989. the Minister for Health That amendment made ultimately responsible for decisions to the importation, trial, in relation

of RU486 and other abortifacients registration and listing the Therapeutic Goods Administration, rather than usually responsible the statutory body in Australia. for the approval of medicines This was on the grounds to a special category of drug that these drugs amounted of public scrutiny. requiring an additional layer some 10 years ago, That debate occurred about the safety of the drug over concerns about RU486 at that time. in the context of what was known there is much more data available. In 2006, we are 10 years on, and in 35 countries, RU486 is now approved Zealand, France, Israel, Sweden, including the United States, New but not Australia. Russia, Turkey, Tunisia and Britain, I draw to the attention of the Senate by a Liberal, that this Bill has been co-sponsored a Labor Party Senator and me, a Democrat, a Member of The Nationals. This is not about party policies.

in this place as individuals, This is about four Senators

with enormous support, who believe, regardless of belonging to different parties, that passing this Bill is the right thing to do. I am advised that this is the first time in the history of this place that four Members of different parties have co-sponsored a Private Senator's Bill. I think it brings great strength that regardless of our individual philosophies and ideologies, we are united in our belief that passing this Bill will be of benefit to people in this country. What does the TGA do in this process?

It is charged with identifying, assessing and evaluating the risks posed by therapeutic goods that come into Australia. It applies any measures necessary for treating the risks posed, and monitors and reviews the risks over time. The TGA is a responsible professional body, and it is regarded by the Government, and I would imagine by the entire scientific community within Australia, as being qualified to manage the risks. It is also necessary for the purposes of this debate

to know that there is a group called the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee which, together with the TGA, makes the recommendations on who can prescribe the drug, how it can be used, under what circumstances it can be used, and it can also apply any measures necessary for treating the risks which are posed. That particular group is made up of clinicians and key medical experts, and it is appointed by the Minister for Health and Ageing.

Its brief includes the quality, the risk benefit, the effectiveness and access within a reasonable time of any drug referred to it for evaluation,

as well as medical and scientific evaluations of applications for registration of prescription drugs.

It also provides services to other Government departments, committees and community-based organisations on a wide variety of regulatory matters related to prescription medicines. This group has particular professional qualifications

in clinical medicine, in pharmacology, toxicology, or general practice. It has six core and 16 associate members, and the review process is exhaustive. The group looks at all sides of the issue, examining the conditions of manufacture, the clinical impact and, of course, the safety of the drug.

Against this scenario of objective scientific measurement, we have the view that responsibility for approving the drug should lie with an elected Member of Parliament, who is also the Health Minister. It is not that I object to the present holder or indeed any holder of that office personally.

It is simply that I do not believe that any of my esteemed colleagues in their particular career as Members of Parliament

have the required scientific knowledge to assess any drug in the considered and stringent way that we accept that drugs should be assessed in Australia. Even with expert advice, which I have no doubt is offered to the Minister within his office, the decision still rests with the Minister and I do not agree, and have never agreed, that that is a desirable aspect. Let's be frank. This debate is taking place because a very small number of determined Australians think that by defending the Ministerial veto on RU486 there is a chance that abortions ? a dozen, 100, maybe only one ? can be stopped. I respect them for their tenacity and their conviction, but they are wrong and they represent the less than 10 per cent of the general population that holds that abortion should not be available to women,

regardless of the method. No amount of push polling, or selective, creative interpretations of history, or manipulation of statistics or studies changes the fundamentals. Abortion is legal in this country. Democratically elected men and women in state and territory Parliaments made laws with regard to abortion and the criteria that must be met to terminate a pregnancy ? and they did this 30 years ago. This is why it is galling listening to the men ? and it is mostly men ?

who have such contempt for women who terminate unwanted pregnancies, who have neither compassion nor understanding of the huge and, for many, daunting task of taking an embryo the size of a grain of rice to adulthood. It is okay for people to hold particular ethical or religious views that lead them to oppose abortion, but it is not okay for them to impose their position on others who do not. Women are fully human. We will act on our own set of values,

and can be trusted to make reproductive health decisions for ourselves or to share those decisions with those we trust. An estimated one-in-three women have had an abortion, and I am one of those. The role of the TGA must be, out of the debate that we've had through this process. to ensure that Australian women have effective and safe choices, are treated with respect and have their judgments respected. It is not good enough that people are prepared to impose their particular views and ideas about what is right on others. A question that I consistently asked people who came before our committee who were in the medical profession and who were giving evidence about their concerns about the safety of RU486,

was whether there was anything in the legislation at the moment that would force them to use this particular medication. Where was the compulsion to use this process? There is none. The amendment that we have put before the Parliament carries no compulsion. The amendment that we have put before the Parliament gives clear responsibility to a group that has been developed for that job. If the medical risks ? the physical properties ? of RU486 were the only issue to be resolved in this debate, we would have no reasonable grounds to quibble with this legislation or the referral of this matter pursuant to that to the TGA. But it is not just about the properties of RU486 - it is not just about the chemical operation, the clinical operation, of RU486. The issue is much broader than that. The issue is that RU486 is not just another drug. It facilitates a medical procedure that is not just another medical procedure.

This drug and the procedure it facilitates are among the most contentious and controversial aspects of modern medicine today. As the group calling itself Doctors Who Support Human Life - Who Respect Human Life - put it to the inquiry, "Abortifacient drugs such as RU486 are unique "in that no other drugs are designed to end a human life. "Therefore their use demands a unique level "of public scrutiny and accountability." And, indeed, it does, Mr Acting Deputy President. Controversial issues which arouse great passion and great contention in the Australian community are properly issues for this Parliament to consider and for this Senate to vote upon. We would not delegate to a statutory body key decisions in Australian public life. We would not ask a statutory body to decide, for example, whether plutonium should be enriched in Australia. We would not ask a statutory body whether we should drill for oil on the Great Barrier Reef. We would not ask a statutory body to modify the rights of Australians in some pertinent way.

But I think that if we pass this legislation today, we are passing to a statutory body a seminal decision of our age - whether this new development in abortion practices in Australia

should be allowed or should not be allowed. The great flaw in the proponents' case is that we should just treat RU486 like any other drug that the Therapeutic Goods Administration deals with. I obviously have much to do myself, as a Member of the Cabinet, as Finance Minister, with the TGA. I mean no reflection upon the TGA. It is a very worthy body. But the fact is that its daily dealings

are with therapeutic pharmaceuticals ? medicines that are designed to cure diseases and illnesses. Indeed, part of its charter is to ensure that we do not approve the use of any drugs that may cause harm to unborn children. That is one of its roles and responsibilities. This drug's purpose, in being used as an abortifacient,

is to destroy a foetus ? to destroy an unborn child. Thus, quite clearly, its use raises very serious social and ethical issues which, in my view, should be the responsibility of a duly elected and accountable Minister in a Government ? accountable to the public and the Parliament ? and not be the pure and sole responsibility

of a committee of officials. This is a conscience vote, yet we are being asked to suspend our consciences by dealing with this as nothing more than a mechanical matter. I think that would be an abrogation of the true responsibility of every Member of this Senate to bring to bear their conscience on this very significant issue.

I openly say that I bring to this a conservative disposition. I personally uphold the sanctity of innocent life from conception onwards. I am personally alarmed by the number of abortions that occur in this country. I am alarmed by the number of pregnancies that are terminated. I bring to this debate personal experience, in that a former girlfriend of mine had an abortion when we were in a monogamous relationship, and I cannot divorce that experience in my life from this consideration. I do not believe that the Parliament should be, or should even be seen to be doing anything that might bring about or encourage a greater number of abortions in this country.

Another reason the Minister should retain control over approvals of RU486 is because he or she is accountable to the community for what they do. The TGA is not. When the TGA originally approved the morning-after pill, the manufacturer said it must only be available with a doctor's prescription. Just 12 months later, a TGA committee removed this restriction,

and the morning-after pill became available over the counter at chemists. And no-one batted an eyelid. Within six months of that decision, a newspaper investigation found that only two out of 10 pharmacies it visited were following proper guidelines when selling the pill. The TGA was not called to account for its backflip. Had the Minister been responsible, you can be sure there would have been much greater public accountability. This is not just another drug.

RU486 is a killer drug. It is designed to terminate a pregnancy. A therapeutic drug, on the other hand, is designed to cure or treat an illness. Pregnancy is not an illness. Pro-abortionists want the drug for destroying the life of an unborn baby. It is what sets RU486 apart

when advocates argue that we are dealing with just another drug. Even the drug company Pfizer ? the manufacturer of the drug Cytotec, which must be used in tandem with RU486 to end the pregnancy and expel the foetus ? says it cannot vouch for the safe use of Cytotec in an RU486 abortion. Many pharmaceuticals studied by the TGA have the potential, if prescribed wrongly or carelessly, to cause injury or death. Yet those drugs do not need the Health Minister's approval for an application to the TGA. For those drugs, the TGA's expertise is perfectly acceptable. The reason for the inconsistency is that RU486, among its other possible uses, such as treating fibroid tumours, endometriosis, Cushing's syndrome, meningiomas and some kinds of breast cancer, as well as these uses, RU486 can be used to cause a deliberate miscarriage of pregnancy ? a non-surgical abortion. That is the reason this drug has been treated so differently. Concern over risks and side effects is an alibi for the real reason - the determination to keep this option closed to Australian women.

You know, if RU486 were to be approved - People have come in here and said that RU486 has been used by thousands of women, and so on. There have been various arguments. I do not feel competent to stand up and argue for RU486. That is not what I am doing in supporting this Bill. I am saying that I do not have the competency to assess RU486. We have a process for assessing

the efficacy and safety of drugs used in Australia,

and that is the process that should be used. Passing this Bill does not guarantee

that RU486 will be deemed safe or made available. It may be, but it may not be. Passing this Bill will mean that, should a sponsor apply to market the drug - as it does for every other drug that are not abortifacients - to evaluate the drug on its merits. Had a company written to me when I was the Health Minister and sought to have RU486 evaluated, I don't think - despite my keen interest in things medical - that I would have had sufficient expertise to make the decision not to allow the TGA to evaluate the drug. I would have sought the advice of the expertise of the TGA.

There is a strong link between RU486

and the death of women who would have survived had they had a surgical abortion. The argument that this number will be small, and therefore is acceptable, repulses me. As it will the child who loses their mother or the husband who loses their wife or partner. The deaths of those women,

that will happen, must rest on those who decide tomorrow. It will remain a stigma far greater than all others in the process that follows or have come before. Because this chamber is the instigation of the act that leads to the deaths of these women, we have to be responsible for those deaths. If for no other reason that I do not want to meet the child who lost their mother

or to meet the father who lost their wife because of my vote or to meet the parent who lost their daughter because of my vote, I will be voting against RU486.

I do not believe there is an acceptable level of collateral damage when it comes to human lives,

when there is an alternative which is far safer. As to RU486 and the safety for the child, it kills virtually all of them, so the argument that is stated about the safety of RU486, but ignoring half the people it affects, is completely disingenious and dishonest.

I want to touch on an issue that arose today, and that is the claim by Mr Abbott, the Minister for Health and Ageing,

that somehow he has been attacked because of his religious beliefs. This is not about Mr Abbott and it is not about any particular Minister for Health. I'd hope one day in the Labor government to be given the opportunity to serve as Minister for Health.

But I would have the same view then that I have now - that it should not be left to my personal decision to make decisions about the efficacy of a drug proposed to be introduced into Australia. I do not have any expertise in that matter, and neither does Mr Abbott. The point is that...should be made out of a political environment. Not by a politician, not by a person who is under the political pressures that we have all come under in recent weeks,

but by an independent body and based on the best scientific and medical advice. It seems to me that that is a very clear and easy decision to make. The result of the division, there being 45 'Aye's and 28 'No's, the matter is resolved in the affirmative. Clerk. CLERK: A Bill for an Act to repeal Ministerial responsibility

for approval of RU486 and for related purposes. The Opposition had promised to pursue the Government over the Iraqi kickback scandal. And it certainly did, using every available opportunity during the first Question Time of the year. My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to his statement to the Parliament on 25 March 2003 when he said,

"The Oil For Food Program "has been immorally and shamefully rorted by Saddam Hussein, "who has used the proceeds "to acquire his weapons capacity..." In the middle of the Iraq war, with Australian troops in the field, why did the Prime Minister turn a blind eye to multiple warnings that Australia was the biggest contributor to this immoral and shameful rort, including Canadian government warnings in December 1999, warnings conveyed through the United Nations in January 2000, and warnings repeated by the UN in March 2000, which were all to the effect that Australia's own AWB

was rorting the Oil For Food programs to the financial benefit of Saddam Hussein? There were a few others as well. Order. The Honourable the Prime Minister. Mr Speaker, the basis of the question is wrong. I deny that the Government turned a blind eye. I accuse the Leader of the Opposition of deliberately distorting the facts. I refer again to his statement to the parliament on 25 March 2003 when he said, and I quote, "The Oil For Food Program "has been immorally and shamefully rorted by Saddam Hussein

"who has used the proceeds of it "to acquire his weapons capacity..." Prime Minister, on what intelligence assessment did you base this statement, and when did you receive it? The Honourable the Prime Minister. That statement was based on quite widely circulated material. I refer in particular to an address by the British Foreign Secretary, Mr Jack Straw.

For the benefit of the Member, I will get him the precise reference. And also plenty of open source reports at the time which suggested that a number of things were happening - that Saddam was selling oil on a bilateral basis to bypass the UN sanction and was also adopting the practice of leaving unspent amounts in the United Nations escrow account and then pointing to the inevitable suffering of his own people to support his argument that the suffering was due to the behaviour of the allies. That is the basis of the claim, and it is totally accurate. When the Deputy Prime Minister, as Trade Minister, was warned in January 2000 of Canadian and UN concerns about irregular payments by the AWB to Saddam Hussein's regime, why did he turn a blind eye to these warnings by limiting the investigation to a simple phone call to the AWB, the very company that the Australian Government had been warned about? The Honourable the Deputy Prime Minister. Order! Order! Order! The Member for Griffith has asked his question. The Deputy Prime Minister. I thank the honourable Member for his question. This is an issue that has been canvassed at length. If I can just make a couple of points. Order! In response to the January 2000 allegation,

DFAT contacted AWB and it categorically denied the allegations. Bearing in mind that the allegations came without any evidence - no evidence, no evidence. In March... In March, when the UN... In March when the UN noted continuing concern about the matter

and raised specific questions over contract conditions, DFAT obtained from AWB the requested paperwork and passed it on to the UN. This resolved the matter to the UN's satisfaction - saying it had removed any grounds for misperception. Can we make one point very, very clear in this? It was always the UN's role

to approve the Oil For Food contracts. It was ALWAYS the UN role, UN's role... Order! Order! approve the Oil For Food contracts, including assessing value and price, not that of the Australian Government. My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. Isn't it a fact that Mr Trevor Flugge of the AWB

wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister personally about his concerns regarding the wheat trade with Iraq just 10 days before the AWB again wrote to your department with their proposal to engage Jordanian trucking companies to assist their trade with Iraq? Deputy Prime Minister, how could DFAT have written back to the AWB just three days later, formally advising them that this would not contravene sanctions against Iraq, without getting a written legal opinion? Without to this day being able to track down the legal officer in the department who is responsible for consulting with them on this matter? And without even bothering to consult the UN, despite your statement today that it was the UN and not the Government which had the power to approve contract arrangements with Iraq? The Honourable the Deputy Prime Minister. With regard to the correspondence that he referred to, obviously as the Chairman of the Wheat Board, Mr Flugge corresponded with me from time to time on a whole range of issues. On the specific issue that the Member raised

with regard to the AWB-DFAT exchange of letters, there was...with reference to a general inquiry on the possible use of Jordanian transport companies. The exchange contained no mention of the specific company. As Volcker and Cole have highlighted,

AWB had already been using Alia for around a year prior to the AWB letter. Deputy Prime Minister, given that the wheat price went up by more than $50 per metric tonne in the AWB's contracts with Saddam Hussein,

why did your Government continue to turn a blind eye to this fact, particularly as AWB employee, Mr Hogan,

has stated that a $50 increase would have been detected because it would have rendered Australian wheat at an exceptionally high price when measured against the international market price? Deputy Prime Minister, if we cannot turn to the Leader of the National Party

to tell us what the international wheat price is, then who can we turn to? MAN: Here, here! The Honourable the Deputy Prime Minister. In answer to the last part of the question,

certainly not the Australian Labor Party. The first point that needs to be cleared up here is that the contracts were not with Saddam Hussein, the contracts were with the United Nations Oil for Food Program, The United Nations Oil For Food Program. They had the responsibility, they had the responsibility to scrutinise every aspect of those contracts. Order! The Member for Wills is warned! On this issue of prices, it was not DFAT's responsibility to check the prices on the UN contracts, it was the UN's responsibility. The United Nations engaged professional operators to assess and establish whether price and value are credible. They scrutinised every contract with professional advisers on price and value. That was done by the UN. That is the answer to the Member's question. Is the Prime Minister aware that the US Congressional Committee on International Relations

has stated that Palestinian suicide bombers were paid US$25,000 each by Saddam Hussein from the Rafidain Bank in Jordan - the very same bank we now know was used to deposit Australian kickbacks to the Iraqi regime? Can the Prime Minister assure us that no Australian money went to the families of suicide bombers? The Honourable the Prime Minister. I am glad the Leader of the Opposition has asked this question, for two reasons. Firstly, it enables me to point out to the Parliament if the advice of the Leader of the Opposition had been followed, Saddam Hussein would still be financing suicide bombers.

That is the first point I would make. Order! Order! And the second point I would make and I do this... I do this, Mr Speaker... Order! The Member for Ballarat! I will not apologise for that because it's right! I will apologise for something I say is wrong but not something which is right, Mr Speaker. It WAS the policy of the Australian Labor Party not to support action to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Order! The Prime Minister resume his seat. Order, Members on my right. The Leader of the Opposition. My colleague called for an apology to the families of Israelis who were killed by suicide bombers. And the Prime Minister gets up there and rants at us on that subject. It is outrageous that you would not be prepared to... MAN: Here, here! The Honourable the Prime Minister. I will apologise for errors for which I am responsible. And at no stage did this Government ever condone the sort of behaviour alleged by the Leader of the Opposition. He asked me whether I could give a guarantee in relation to Australian money. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that the money allegedly going to the Iraqi officials was not Australian money. It was in fact the money of Iraq held in escrow by the United Nations. ..$300 million to arm Iraqi troops, actually, not so much Iraqi troops

but the insurgent element of it - the Fedayeen. That same Fedayeen subsequently became the basis of one part of the insurgency which is now killing and maiming thousands of Americans and thousands of Iraqis. That is what Australian money went to. And it went to arming troops who may - and thank God it has not occurred yet - mount attacks on Australian soldiers now serving in Iraq. Poor old Bob Menzies... labelled with 'Pig-Iron Bob', for sending pig-iron to the Japanese before 1939. What are we to describe this Prime Minister as - Wheat Bag Johnny? Because he is every bit as deserving of the sort of epithet that was attached to Menzies from his performance here. This is incredibly serious. Mr Speaker, in his speech, the Leader of the Opposition suggested that the Australian Government was responsible for the deaths and injuries of American soldiers in Iraq. The Australian Government was responsible. I think that allegation stands on its own. It is a disgraceful and disgusting slur. Let me put it this way - I think if we made an allegation like that against the Labor Party there would be uproar and outrage, there would be uproar and outrage. No, but the Labor Party somehow...

..having supported the retention of Saddam Hussein's regime,

now suggests that the Australian Government was quite happy to fund the deaths and maiming of American soldiers and, of course, Palestinian suicide bombers. No country, no Government, has been more supportive of what the Americans have been doing in Iraq than the Australian Government. On day two, the Opposition turned up the heat on the Deputy Prime Minister, with specific questions about who certified the wheat contracts - the United Nations or the Australian Government? Why did the Deputy Prime Minister claim that AWB contracts with Iraq were certified by the United Nations and that the Australian government only issued export permits, when this simply is not true? Has the Deputy Prime Minister actually seen these contracts, in particular Section 2 of the contract where it requests "certifying signature and official seal"? Deputy Prime Minister, is the seal attached to the AWB contract the seal of the United Nations or the seal of the Australian government? MEN: Here, here! The Honourable the Deputy Prime Minister. Order! Order! Order! Order!

Mr Speaker...

The Leader of the Opposition was heard in silence. The Deputy Prime Minister. The Leader of the Opposition knows that these contracts are conducted under the auspices of the UN. The UN had to agree... The UN had to agree to the terms of the contracts. The UN had to agree to the terms of the contracts.

And they had to agree to the payment being made out of the escrow account that they controlled. MR BEAZLEY: This is the Australian government seal! It is your responsibility! SPEAKER: The Leader does not have the call. Has the Deputy Prime Minister completed his answer? Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade.

I refer to his answer to my question yesterday when he stated, and I quote, "The structure of contracts "was purely a matter between AWB and the United Nations." Does the Deputy Prime Minister also recall telling this Parliament exactly the reverse, when he said, "The certification that DFAT did on the contracts "was in the structure of the contracts"? Was the responsibility to approve the contract structure

the UN's, as you told us yesterday, or the Australian Government's, as you told us last year? Order! Order! Order! The Member for Griffith was heard in silence. The Deputy Prime Minister. Mr Speaker, as I continue to say,

the contracts were conducted under the auspices of the United Nations, the United Nations had to approve the terms of the contracts, and the United Nations approved payments on the contracts. They were operated through that escrow account that was operated by the United Nations. After the AWB and the Iraqi Grain Board agreed in Baghdad in July 1999 to change their contract arrangements to include an extra fee of $12 per metric ton,

when did your officials first meet with the AWB after that, who did they meet, and what did they discuss? MR DOWNER: And what are their names and addresses? Prime Minister, you think this is just a joke, do you?

You just think it's a joke. We are trying to establish some facts. UPROAR FROM GOVERNMENT BENCHES The member for Griffith will come to his question or resume his seat. Order! Members on my right. The Member for Griffith has the call. This is when the scandal began, Alex, I thought you'd be interested. The Member for Griffith will come to his question. When did your officials first meet with the AWB after that,

who did they meet, and what did they discuss about these new contract arrangements with Saddam's regime? The Honourable the Deputy Prime Minister. I thank the Member for Griffith for his question. I will have to check the records and check with my departmental officials to see who, if anybody, met with them and when it was discussed and what was discussed. My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. I refer to DFAT's statement issued yesterday, which reportedly does not deny the Department's involvement

in the Tigris matter. And I quote from... MR DOWNER: Oh... Order! You find this a huge joke, don't you, Alex? PRIME MINISTER: You're the joke. Oh, Prime Minister... ..that's a $300 million joke, Prime Minister. The Member for Griffith will proceed with his question. I refer to DFAT... Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister are interrupting. The Member for Griffith will get to his question.

UPROAR MR BEAZLEY: The time will come when you may interrupt, but not now.

Order! Order! The Member for Sturt. I refer to DFAT's statement issued yesterday,

which reportedly does not deny the Department's involvement in the Tigris matter. I quote from correspondence from AWB executive Charles Stott which says, "Our friends at DFAT are interested in the outcome of the discussions to recover the obligation." Minister, did your office or your Department at any stage help the AWB, BHP or Tigris in Tigris's efforts to recover money from Iraq? The Honourable the Deputy Prime Minister. Obviously the Member for Griffith has not seen the statement from DFAT yesterday, so I will read it to him. The statement from DFAT yesterday said very clearly, "DFAT did not approve the Tigris donation/debt repayment deal. "DFAT's advice has been clear and consistent

"with the UN sanctions regime.

That is in the statement from DFAT. And, unlike the Opposition, unlike the Government, Mr Cole has access at a level nobody else has. He has not only DFAT's documents. They went to DFAT when this inquiry started,

and copied all the documents that they wanted. This is the cover-up! We were accused by the Labor Party of covering up. That was their first charge. How are you covering up when you invite them into the bowels of DFAT and you give them all the documents? That is some cover-up! Not only has he done that, but he has also got the relevant documents from my Department. More importantly than his getting our documents, he has also got AWB's documents. We do not have AWB's documents. The only documents of AWB that we have are those of correspondence. My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister. He still has to answer questions in this place, no matter how much the Prime Minister might like to shut it down.

My question to him follows the question he did not answer last time. Minister, did your office or your Department at any stage help the AWB, BHP or Tigris in any efforts to recover the Tigris money from Iraq? The Honourable the Deputy Prime Minister. I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. Again, this is a matter that is being dealt with by the Commission, and you know that. It has just been very clearly outlined. INTERJECTIONS Commissioner Cole indicated quite clearly last Friday that he intends pursuing the matter. OK? He intends pursuing the matter.

Order! The Member for Lilley! I refer the Leader of the Opposition again

to the statement by DFAT yesterday where they said, "DFAT did not approve the Tigris donation/debt repayment deal. "DFAT's advice has been clear and consistent "with the UN Sanctions regime." Now, Mr Speaker... Order! Order. The Deputy Prime Minister will resume his seat. (Repeats) The Leader of the Opposition on a point of order. I go to relevance. It related to him, his office, as well as his department. It was not a question of approval, it was help. The...order! The Deputy Prime Minister is answering the question, I call the Deputy Prime Minister. Further to the question and to the statement by DFAT yesterday, I have been advised that, having searched the files, DFAT has no record of any knowledge of the complicated arrangements to inflate wheat contract prices to enable the repayment of the Tigris debt and wheat compensation payments. It was aware in 1995... I am advised that it was aware in 1995

that BHP had funded a shipment of AWB wheat as a humanitarian donation. However, when BHP and AWB proposed that the donation be repaid under a credit agreement, DFAT advised this would violate sanctions. DFAT also emphasised that any changes to the original UN agreement would require Sanctions Committee approval. This fact has been reported to the Cole inquiry ? the point that we continue to make to the Leader of the Opposition. DFAT's advice was clear and consistent with the UN sanctions regime, and DFAT has no record or any knowledge that the Tigris, BHP, AWB deal actually went ahead. On Thursday, the Opposition attack widened to include the Agriculture Minister and his predecessor. My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

I refer the Minister to statements released yesterday by the Chair of the Wheat Export Authority, Mr Tim Besley, that in mid-2004 the Wheat Export Authority became aware that AWB was supplying wheat to Iraq under an arrangement

that included overland transport by a Jordanian trucking company at inflated contract prices well above the global benchmark and that, as a result of that information, the WEA undertook an investigation of these arrangements. Given this investigation by the WEA, why did the Minister tell the House on 9 November last year that,

"The WEA had no material "that suggested additional scrutiny was warranted." Why did the Minister mislead the House? The Honourable the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. I thank the Honourable Member for his question. At the outset, let me say that I have not misled the House.

The Wheat Export Authority, on the basis of newspaper reports, initiated their own inquiries of AWBI in February 2004. Over a period of time they sought information and examined documents, and then in August 2004 attended the offices of AWBI and looked at 17 specific contracts between AWB and Iraq. They were acting under their legislative responsibilities. When they heard of the kickback rumours ? no evidence was presented ? they initiated their own inquiries. They were clearly and repeatedly told by AWB that there were no improprieties in regard to the contracts that the WEA investigated. From the information provided to the WEA, to their best abilities, they found, to quote their chairman, "Nothing untoward". The WEA has provided all relevant papers and correspondence on these issues to the Cole inquiry, and I suggest that we allow the inquiry to do its job. Last week the Leader of the Opposition said to the National Press Club, "I promise you" ? the people at the National Press Club are journalists ? "and every Australian "this will be the most aggressive Parliamentary interrogation "this Government has faced in its 10 long years in office. You can just imagine him saying it, all blown up, explosive and excited, "The worst corruption in 25 years", "Responsible for the deaths of Americans", "Suicide bombers", "Research into weapons of mass destruction", and yet after a whole week, after a whole week of these incredible assertions, the Leader of the Opposition today was quoted on Brisbane ABC news as saying, "There is no smoking gun here." Oh dear! The most corrupt, appalling, vile, cruel, wicked people in the history of the universe ? but there is unfortunately no smoking gun. The Leader of the Opposition, at the end of the day, is a weak man who is a pathetic Parliamentary performer. UPROAR Order! (Repeats)

Order! The House will come to order. Order! Order. Order. The Leader does not have the call. INTERJECTIONS

The Leader of the Opposition.

The CIA agrees with me, I am sorry about him!

The Leader will come to his question. My question is to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services. We will get back to uncovering this scandal. I refer to the statement from the Minister's office last night that the 2004 confidential report from the Wheat Export Authority to him

contained details of AWB payments of transport fees to a Jordanian trucking company. I also refer to the fact that the Minister's statement contradicts the Minister for Agriculture's answer

to the House on 8 December last year, "Those confidential reports to the Minister for Agriculture "do not contain the sort of information "implied in the Honourable Member's question."

Why didn't the Minister take steps under the Ministerial Code of Conduct to correct this mislead as soon as possible? Why did he turn a blind eye?

The Honourable the Minister for Transport and Regional Services.

There is absolutely no difference between the comments that have been made by me and the comments made by the new Minister for Agriculture. What the Minister for Agriculture has clearly pointed out

is that the Wheat Export Authority exercised its legislative responsibility to investigate allegations that were in the public domain.

It reported on these matters in the confidential report to the Minister, which I received in October 2004. Whilst the report is confidential, Mr Besley, the chairman of the authority, has said a couple of things about what was in that report.

The first the Minister for Agriculture commented about a couple of minutes ago in his letter to Senator Heffernan, in which he made the comment and referred to his statements in front of the Senate Estimates Committee that nothing untoward Nothing untoward emerged from that check. To quote from Mr Besley, in the newspaper today,

he said, "The information given to the Minister" - and in this instance it was me - contained no evidence of wrongdoing. Instead, the Minister was told the WEA had given AWB a "clean bill of health". A clean bill of health! So the advice given by the WEA to the Minister was that the AWB had a clean bill of health on these issues. I believe the response that was made at that time was entirely appropriate. It dealt with the complaints, it dealt with the allegations and advised the Minister that the AWB had a clean bill of health. Coalition tensions were simmering in the wake of Nationals Senator Julian McGauran's defection to the Liberals. They boiled over when Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan publicly attacked a Coalition colleague. Is the Minister aware of the alleged actions of Senator Heffernan in abusing his Senate and Coalition colleague Senator Nash at Canberra Airport yesterday? Can the Minister indicate whether the Prime Minister finds such behaviour to be acceptable? If not, can the Minister explain what action has been taken to discipline Senator Heffernan? Given Senator Heffernan's past record, does the Prime Minister believe that his apology is sufficient,

or does he agree with The Nationals MP Ms De-Anne Kelly

that the actions constitute workplace harassment, and should be treated more seriously? Wouldn't the failure to take more serious action effectively condone Senator Heffernan's repeated attempts to intimidate fellow Coalition Senators?

I can inform Senator Evans that I undertook, as Leader of the Government in the Senate,

to speak to both Senator Heffernan and Senator Nash this morning. They have both assured me that they were staggered by the extraordinary media focus upon this issue, that the matter was blown out of all proportion

blown out of all proportion by the ABC and, of course, taken up by the ALP, which knows nothing other than to listen to the ABC for its... Senators on my left,

there is far too much noise coming across the chamber. We are trying to hear what the Minister has to say. Senator Minchin. I have received assurances from both Senator Nash, who believes that she did not feel intimidated at all by Senator Heffernan, and Senator Heffernan, who wished to make it clear that in no terms was he seeking to intimidate Senator Nash. Of course we all know Senator Heffernan is quite a mild, meek and humble fellow, and we do not find him intimidating at all. Senator Nash certainly does not. I can assure the Opposition that this Coalition remains strong, united and determined to bring good government to this country and to repair the damage caused by 13 years of Labor. No wonder Senator McGauran, with his filthy finger, wanted to sit closer to the marauding Senator Heffernan ?

they are a pair together. Senator Barnaby Joyce was right to say that Senator Heffernan should wake up to himself. But the Howard Government and leaders within the Government, like Senator Minchin, have the responsibility to drag him into line and make him, if he will not wake up to himself. It is appalling, appalling that John Howard and Nick Minchin...

..Prime Minister Howard and Senator Minchin are allowing Senator Heffernan to career around Canberra, terrorising the place like a rogue elephant. If the Prime Minister has a problem with vulgarisms on our TV, he ought to have a problem with them coming out of the mouth of one of his lieutenants. What we saw is the result of this unedifying spectacle yesterday

was a dispute that arose as a result of the Costello forces in Victoria. We have a Senator here who used to represent the seat of Ballarat clearly heavily involved in the poaching of Senator McGauran from the National Party to the Liberal Party. What reason was there? There has been none stated publicly, other than an attempt to shore up the Costello numbers

within the Liberal Party itself. Senator Nash responded by saying that never again would she put the interests of the Government ahead of her party when voting in the Senate

after the Liberal Party deliberately went out and purchased a vote within the Liberal Party room itself. We have a Senator who was described by the former Premier of Victoria as the most useless Senator for the state of Victoria. This is the man that they have purchased as a result of the intervention of the Costello forces within the Liberal Party to buy a vote. It boils down to a question of numbers.

It is not a matter of deep principle. Senator Heffernan, the Prime Minister's attack dog, is let off the leash yet again and goes to the airport here in Canberra yesterday and tells Senator Nash that she may "blow it out her backside" ? I use that word in deference to the ruling of the Deputy President on this matter. In this place today, we have seen Senator Minchin try to tell us there was nothing in it,

it was only a question of the ABC blowing it up. What we have here is the Coalition being blown up as a deliberate attempt has been made by one section of the Liberal Party to secure additional numbers in a forthcoming ballot for the leadership of the Government. That is the fundamental question here ? not the big issues facing this society, but who is going to become the Prime Minister as a result of a forthcoming leadership ballot within the Liberal Party. There is one person in this chamber that doesn't need the help of Senator Conroy or Senator Carr,

and that's Senator Nash. Because she's far smarter... ..far tougher... ..than both Senator Carr and Senator Conroy put together. And she doesn't need the Australian Labor Party supporting her. I would think that people would look back

at the end of this year and look at the start of this year, and the discussions of the Labor Party, and in some respects it seems to me

that the white flag has been raised already.

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