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Tuesday, 22 June 1999
Page: 6987

Mr CREAN —My question is again to the Prime Minister, and I ask: does the Prime Minister stand by the requirement of his ministerial code:

. . . it is important that ministers and parliamentary secretaries avoid giving any appearance of using public office for private purposes.

And in another part:

Ministers should not exercise the influence obtained from their public office, or use official information, to obtain any improper benefit for themselves or another.

Prime Minister, are you aware that on 8 May this year the member for Leichhardt issued an invitation to a meeting on the environmental impacts of the acid sulfate soils on the East Trinity site and surrounds? Is he aware that the letterhead of that invitation reads:

The Honourable Warren Entsch MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Science and Resources . . .

Is he further aware that the contact officer in the letter is the ministerial staffer of the member for Leichhardt? Prime Minister, isn't this a direct conflict of interest between the member's executive role and his private interests? Why won't you sack him?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —The House has already one day this week been treated to the rather fertile imagination of the member for Hotham when it comes to interpreting letters sent, or statements made, by members on this side of the House. The words of the ministerial code are clear. The statements that I have made in relation to the behaviour of the member for Leichhardt are well known to this House. I can only say in relation to the statements made by the member for Hotham and the Leader of the Opposition in the last three questions that I do not make any admissions, I do not offer any agreement to, and I do not confirm any of the interpretations that have been placed, and I will continue, as I said previously, to analyse the questions that have been put. It is a bit hard to analyse questions while you are still in question time, but if the opposition would like me to terminate question time now so that I can go away and analyse them, I will.

The member for Leichhardt, on all of the evidence available to me, has behaved in a totally honest and correct fashion and I have had no evidence presented to me of any conflict between his private interests and his public duty. I think he is performing his public duties extremely well—and so do his constituents.

Mr O'Connor —What about your standards?

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Corio!

Mr O'Connor interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Corio is warned.