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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12885

Mr KERR (9:47 PM) —by leave—I move:

(2) Schedule 2, item 7, page 29 (line 24) to page 30 (line 4), omit the item.

(3) Schedule 2, page 29 (lines 22 and 23), omit "Petroleum (Australia-Indonesia Zone of Cooperation) Act 1990"

Plainly, most of the substantive debate on this matter has been had. Might I just ask this rhetorical question for amusement sake: it might be an interesting exercise in parliamentary embarrassment were the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration to try to explain why, if all these matters were adverted to by the government in or around early October, the written copy of further amendments that were provided to my office on or around 18 October from the Office of Parliamentary Counsel did not take this matter up—that being some substantial period of time after the ballot in East Timor had occurred. Indeed, it might be interesting to ask why the provisions of part 4 appeared in the bill at all one month after the plebiscite that had occurred on East Timor which had voted for independence.

I find the further suggestion that I might be suffering from some confusion in relation to the manner in which this matter was transacted between me and the minister's office even more offensive. I appreciate that it may have been intended to take some sting out of the situation but, frankly, it does not. The suggestion that there was any confusion is quite unjustifiable. There was no confusion. The provision was included in the legislation. It was maintained in the legislation after the interventions of the Minister for Foreign Affairs that were referred to. It was addressed by the government only after it was referred to us and when we indicated our intention to move amendments to remove it. Notwithstanding those discussions, even on the day before debate was formally had in this House, we had not heard back from Senator Vanstone's office up to 1.30 on that day when we had been told that the minister's office would be getting back to us on our proposal that morning. So we went public in relation to the matter. Of course, after having gone public on this, a satisfactory outcome has ultimately been achieved.

But the method of that achievement does no credit to the Minister for Justice and Customs. Again, as I say, I take no particular pleasure in that. Whatever criticisms have existed between the minister and me hitherto, I have not made the kind of statements that I do this evening in relation to her misleading—through the parliamentary secretary at the table—of this parliament, but I can draw no other conclusion.