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Opposition to press for parliamentary inquiry -

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Opposition to press for parliamentary inquiry into Neal

The World Today - Tuesday, 17 June , 2008 12:18:00

Reporter: Sabra Lane

EMMA ALBERICI: As the old saying goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

The Prime Minister yesterday said that backbencher Belinda Neal's behaviour was out of step with
parliamentary standards.

And this morning, two of her Labor MP colleagues suggested Ms Neal's matter might be referred to a
parliamentary privileges committee. Not for what happened at the Iguana Joe's restaurant on the NSW
Central Coast, but for her comments in Parliament to Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella.

In that exchange, Ms Neal told the heavily pregnant Liberal MP that evil thoughts would turn her
unborn baby into a demon.

The opposition has confirmed, it will ask for an investigation into the incident.

The inquiries will be regarded as an annoying distractions for the Rudd Government, as it continues
to pressure the Coalition to pass its Budget measures through the Parliament.

From Canberra, Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: Belinda Neal's husband, John Della Bosca stood aside from his state education portfolio
last week over the Iguana Joe's restaurant scandal.

Today, while arriving at the New South Wales State Parliament, he was trying radiate a picture of

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: All days are good days.

SABRA LANE: But some are better than others, as his wife can attest.

Yesterday, the Government used its majority numbers in the House of Representatives to close down
the debate about Ms Neal.

During a vote on Ms Neal, the Prime Minister left the chamber to avoid giving his support to the
embattled member for Robertson.

A point not lost on maverick Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey, who says the police investigation into the
incident at the Iguanas restaurant is appropriate.

WILSON TUCKEY: And I'm more than happy to let that process proceed. But I thought it was very
notable yesterday that the Prime Minister ducked out before a vote that was relevant to herself and
you can only, I saw that as a total vote of no confidence in the lady and he'd no a lot more that I

SABRA LANE: Other Labor MPs were asked about Belinda Neal this morning, and the decision by Mr Rudd
to leave the Lower House to avoid voting, effectively turning his back on his colleague.

West Australian Labor MP, Sharryn Jackson.

SHARRYN JACKSON: Look, I think issues associated with Ms Neal are already the subject of a police
inquiry in NSW, a possible reference to the privileges committee. And I'm sure it will be dealt
with effectively in both of those forums.

SABRA LANE: While a government MP confirmed yesterday there's official co-ordination of the arrival
of backbenchers into Parliament, to parade before TV cameras and microphones, it seems they might
also share the same notes on what to say.

South Australian Labor MP, Amanda Rishworth.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Belinda Neal is currently under investigation from the police. My understand is
that Brendan Nelson has referred that to the privileges committee and the committee will follow due
process in terms of that.

SABRA LANE: Dr Nelson hasn't written a letter to the privileges committee yet, but given the urging
from Labor MPs, he will this afternoon, asking it to investigate.

Ms Neal's being referred to the committee for comments made in Parliament on 28th May, about the
unborn child of Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella.

Listen carefully the following snippet from debate on that day, and the woman's voice in the

OPPOSITION MP: Business confidence is at its lowest level...

BELINDA NEAL: Your will turn into a demon if you have such evil thoughts.

OPPOSITION MP: ...the lowest level, since these statistics have been recorded.

BELINDA NEAL: It will make your child a demon, you'll make your child a demon.

OPPOSITION MP: The lowest level since records were kept. But let's...

GOVERNMENT MP: Certainly my...

BELINDA NEAL: Evil thoughts make your child a demon.

SABRA LANE: The comments were directed at Mrs Mirabella.

SOPHIE MIRABELLA: I've been increasingly offended and would ask the Member for Robertson to
withdraw her comment she made earlier. The comment being that, "evil thoughts would turn your child
into a demon". I ask her to withdraw, unreservedly.

BELINDA NEAL: It wasn't made, so I won't withdraw what the member imagined she heard.

SABRA LANE: While Ms Neal denied the comments at the time, she apologised for them the next day.

In a statement, Mr Rudd said the comments were inappropriate and that it's now a matter for an
individual member to raise for investigation.

Wilson Tuckey is the deputy chairman of the privileges committee. Based on his views this morning,
he might want to broaden the inquiry to include an examination of the Iguana restaurant incident,
Friday week ago.

WILSON TUCKEY: If there is a situation where members of parliament go around threatening people
livelihood, I'll take your license off you. The problem in NSW is there's people there that believe
they have that power. This is a very serious matter if the allegations are proven.

SABRA LANE: The Neal investigations will be regarded as annoying distractions to the Government's

It's focused on trying to get its budgetary measures through Parliament by the end of June, while
the Opposition still controls the Senate. It says the delays will cost $284-million.

Finance minister Lindsay Tanner told AM, he wouldn't rule out recalling the Senate after July, to
get the measures passed as soon as possible.

LINDSAY TANNER: We'll for our own view about what's the most appropriate response, amongst other
things, if they shoot substantial holes in the Budget that raises question of how we respond in a
variety of ways. We're not going to flag our intentions in advance of that.

SABRA LANE: From July, Family First Senator Steve Fielding, Independent Nick Xenophon and all
Greens Senators will hold the balance of power in the Senate.

Greens Leader Bob Brown says his party is ready for the responsibility.

BOB BROWN: We're up to it and we're looking forward to it. And we'll be consulting with both the
big parties and we're pushing innovation in the Senate will be consulting with the Independents as
well. So, our simply aim in the Senate will be to get better outcomes for Australia generally.

EMMA ALBERICI: Greens leader Bob Brown, ending that report from Sabra Lane.