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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19217

Mr CREAN (2:12 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Now that the Prime Minister has had time to examine all the documents relating to the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, is he aware of advice from the South Australian police on 5 September, before the minister wrote any of his letters, that the minister's son's case had been reviewed and the penalty confirmed?

Government member interjecting

Mr CREAN —`So what?' you ask. Is the Prime Minister also aware of the provisions of the South Australian Police Act which make it unlawful for the police minister to intervene in a police matter that has already been reviewed and the penalty confirmed? The Prime Minister nods that he is aware of that. Does the Prime Minister therefore now acknowledge that each of Minister Tuckey's letters, on 25 September, 11 November and 16 January, urge the South Australian police minister to break the law? Why does the Prime Minister tolerate a minister who has consistently and repeatedly urged another minister to break the law remaining in his cabinet?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I am aware that, when the minister's son wrote, there was a reply sent which said something substantially to the effect of what the Leader of the Opposition has suggested. I am aware of that. I am not aware, without checking, of any other advice from the police. That may be the police advice to which the Leader of the Opposition is referring. It is my recollection, without looking at the papers—and I could be wrong; I may have to correct this—that this reply from the police was in fact appended to the minister's first letter to the South Australian minister. That is my recollection.

It remains the case that the minister made representations. Whether the minister was across the detail of South Australian law when he wrote, I do not know. In fact I doubt if he was aware of the provisions of the South Australian law.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr HOWARD —Mr Speaker, if members of the opposition want an answer they will stop interjecting; otherwise I will sit down.

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister is entitled to be heard in silence. I have drawn this to the attention of a number of opposition members.

Mr HOWARD —It remains the case that any citizen is entitled to make representations. Effectively what the Leader of the Opposition is alleging is that every time somebody writes to a minister or to the Treasurer complaining about their taxation assessment they are asking—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr HOWARD —No—the Treasurer to break the law, because the Leader of the Opposition knows full well that the Commissioner of Taxation has full statutory independence and it would be a breach of the law for the Treasurer to try and interfere with it. So any suggestion to that effect is absolute nonsense. It is an absurd proposition and it is an attempt to justify this flailing effort by the opposition to impugn the legality of what the minister did, as distinct from what I have made very plain was the lack of commonsense he displayed.