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Howard clutching at straws

John Howard should cease his attempts to misrepresent my approach to the failure of so many of his Ministers to comply with his discredited code of conduct.

The Federal Opposition has never argued that Ministers may not hold any shareholdings or business interests. What we have identified are real and apparent conflicts of interest between Ministers' portfolio responsibilities and decisions, and their private pecuniary interests.

Mr Howard's obvious discomfort stems from the fact that so many of his Ministers have ignored his code, or else failed to comply with it through incompetence or sloth.

I am flattered that Mr Howard and his office are so rattled by the week's events that they are poring over my interview transcripts, and clutching at quotes out of context.

For the benefit of Mr Howard. let me provide the full quote from my interview this morning on the ABC Radio program AM: 'You're not obliged to get out of your business or get out of your shareholdings or whatever. What you're obliged to do is be careful when there is an apparent likelihood of a conflict. And when there's a likelihood of a conflict in detail, across the board, then you actually have to work out whether or not you make a sacrifice.'

If the matters raised properly by the Labor Opposition in the course of this week are so 'ridiculous', as Mr Howard claimed today, why did he accept the resignation of two frontbenchers?

John Howard issued his Ministerial guidelines, and the Labor Opposition will continue to enforce them.

CANBERRA