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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19222

Mr GAVAN O'CONNOR (2:37 PM) —My question is to the Minister for—

The SPEAKER —The Minister for Foreign Affairs and the member for Batman, the member for Corio has the call and is entitled to be heard.

Mr Downer —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw an interjection which referred to the family of the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr Downer —I actually do not regard it as funny; I regard it as profoundly offensive. This is the Leader of the Opposition who wanted to raise the standards of the parliament but who is plumbing new depths.

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Wills!

Mr Latham —I was saying I know my son.

The SPEAKER —The member for Werriwa is only compounding the complications here enormously. I did not hear any remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition. There were inappropriate remarks made on both sides of the House. I do not believe this is going to be assisted by any further action from the chair at this stage. I ask all members to exercise more restraint. I call the member for Corio.

Mr GAVAN O'CONNOR —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will speak loudly so that members opposite can hear. My question is to the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government. Can the minister explain why he falsely claimed to the South Australian police minister and to the House during his ministerial statement yesterday that he was merely pursuing `natural justice' for his son? Isn't it the case that the minister's son got natural justice, just like any other citizen, but that the minister refused to accept this and pursued a special deal by writing to the South Australian police minister?

The SPEAKER —The member for Corio will come to his question.

Mr GAVAN O'CONNOR —Wouldn't real natural justice be for the minister to now resign?

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The question clearly was an entire argument. There was no question in that. I cannot see how that is in keeping with the standing orders of the House, and I would ask you to rule it out of order.

The SPEAKER —I listened closely to the question. The member for Sturt is correct in that there was argument in the latter part of the question. At that point I asked the member for Corio to come to his question, and he did so.

Mr TUCKEY (Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government) —There is clearly a misapprehension as to my position on these matters, as was just demonstrated. Accordingly, I want to deal with those issues raised to date. First, as I indicated to the House, I made it plain in my letter to the then South Australian state police minister that I was writing on behalf of my son. Second, I referred to it as a constituent inquiry. In any representations I make on behalf of others, wherever they reside, I have always treated such letters as a constituent matter to differentiate them from other official business.

During my time as a member of parliament and a minister, I have received numerous requests from many parts of Australia, and WA in particular, from people seeking my representations. Many of these people reside in Labor electorates—as does my son, in the electorate of Swan. My policy has always been to make such representations wherever possible, and I have always categorised such representations as constituent work, irrespective of the address of the individual involved.

However, as indicated in my statement to the House yesterday morning, I want to make it clear that, if my words were construed as indicating my son is an elector in the seat of O'Connor, then I wish to again make it clear he is not a resident in the electorate of O'Connor. Third, as I also advised the House yesterday, I wrote two letters to the South Australian state police minister on ministerial letterhead. The third was written on my electorate stationery. I have apologised for the use of the ministerial letterhead and do so again now.

I deal directly with claims of misleading the House that have been raised by the opposition. In my answer to the member for Corio on Tuesday, my reference to not pressing the matter any further was a reference to the three letters he mentioned in his question. I can understand why some people might put a different construction on the Hansardrecord, and perhaps I should have made myself more clear. I am sorry that in the swirl and fog of question time I did not do so.

With respect to the allegation that I misled the House when I said, `I did not ask that it be changed,' my initial letter makes it clear that I asked for the matter to be reconsidered, not changed. Subsequently, I called for the minister to reconsider the additional costs imposed. This is clear from my letter of 16 January 2003. All I could do, and all I did, was to make a representation. It was a matter for the South Australian authorities to examine the matters put to them and come to a conclusion. I sought to have the matters examined and to be advised of the outcome, which the South Australian minister eventually did after referring the matter to the police department in the way representations of this sort are, I presume, normally handled.

The two subsequent letters were about the way the matter was handled, rather than the initial infringement. Indeed—and this may be of some interest to the opposition—the South Australian authorities have remedies available to them to have the matter reconsidered. My son was advised by letter on 15 May 2003 that he could lodge an application to have the enforcement order revoked. This letter came from the Courts Administration Authority of South Australia. In the letter from the Courts Administration Authority he is advised that once the application—the application they sent to him—had been completed and lodged he would be notified of the hearing date to attend court and, if successful in his application, the enforcement order would be removed and the fine reinstated to the original amount.

While I acknowledge that I should have handled aspects of the matter differently in terms of the letterhead, I have tried at all times to be frank and honest with the parliament and hope this answer and earlier statements resolve any misunderstanding or lack of clarity. In my almost 23 years in the House of Representatives I have never sought to mislead the House and I did not intentionally do so in dealing with these matters.

Mr Crean —I ask the minister to table the document from which he just read.

Mr TUCKEY —I am happy to table it.