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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 20148

Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Transport and Regional Services) (3:33 PM) —Mr Speaker, I seek the indulgence of the chair to add to an answer.

The SPEAKER —The minister may proceed.

Mr ANDERSON —Last Thursday I answered a question from the member for Batman which contained an assertion that, just six months prior to the recent theft of a laptop from a transport security section of my department, there had been a break-in in precisely the same area. The member for Batman's question was as follows:

Can the minister confirm that just six months ago there was a break-in at exactly the same location and on the same floor as the latest security breach and theft of a laptop which was reported yesterday? Minister, what steps were taken following the first break-in to upgrade security at this location ...

Following that question, I undertook to check the records and establish whether the break-in actually happened. I have now been able to do that and can advise that there is no record of a break-in in the same area of the department six months ago as claimed. Accordingly, I call on the honourable member either to correct the record, as his spokesman clearly intimated over the weekend he would probably do in this place this week, or, if he has information that neither my department nor the Australian Federal Police are aware of, to supply that to the appropriate authorities forthwith. Until and unless he does so, I say that he stands condemned of hypocrisy by his own words in this place that security issues `should be raised in a responsible, constructive manner that does not blow risk out of proportion'.

Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

The SPEAKER —The member for Werriwa will resume his seat. I will recognise him, of course, if I have not dealt with the issue.

Mr Latham —Follow the rules.

The SPEAKER —Order! The Deputy Prime Minister's reference to the member for Batman as having been hypocritical is inappropriate and I ask him to withdraw it.

Mr ANDERSON —Mr Speaker, I did not accuse him of hypocrisy. I said that if he did not correct the record he would stand accused of hypocrisy.

The SPEAKER —I would nonetheless invite the Deputy Prime Minister to rephrase the latter part of that statement.

Mr Randall —What is the matter with the truth?

The SPEAKER —The member for Canning is warned! I invite the Deputy Prime Minister to rephrase the latter part of that remark. I am dealing with the matter!

Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: if it is good enough for the minister to rephrase what he said, it is good enough for him to comply with your initial ruling that he withdraw. Isn't that obvious to the House?

The SPEAKER —I have simply invited the Deputy Prime Minister to do so, beyond what are the normal constraints—because he has pointed out the context in which he used the term and indicated that he was not accusing the member for Batman of hypocrisy but suggesting that he would be guilty of it if he did not take particular action. I am asking him to rephrase the latter part of the statement indicating that the member for Batman may be misleading the House if he does not take particular action. I think the term `hypocrisy' is always a difficult one for the chair to deal with.

Mr ANDERSON —Mr Speaker, I have made no charge of hypocrisy. I will repeat quite clearly—

Mr ANDERSON —The Leader of the Opposition apparently does not understand the English language. I will repeat my words precisely. I said that, until and unless he either corrects the record and ensures that he is not misleading this House or provides the information he has, he runs the risk of standing condemned as a hypocrite by virtue of his own words when he said that security issues `should be raised in a responsible, constructive manner that does not blow risk out of all proportion'. I simply invite the member for Batman to ensure that he is true to his own standards and does not raise security matters in a way that blows risk out of all proportion.

The SPEAKER —I would remind the Deputy Prime Minister that it is not a matter of whether the Leader of the Opposition is happy with the response or the understanding of the English; it is a matter of whether the Speaker is. The Deputy Prime Minister's use of the term `until and unless' rather compounds the issue. I think it would be better to indicate simply that he was unhappy about the member for Batman's position and that the member for Batman would stand condemned by the parliament. I do not want the term `hypocrisy' included.

Mr ANDERSON —Mr Speaker, I simply withdraw anything that might be unsatisfactory—though, in all truthfulness, I do not understand it. But I withdraw unreservedly and simply reiterate that I think the member for Batman, who purports to take security seriously, must either provide the information to the Australian Federal Police or correct the record in this place.

Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My initial point of order concerned the abuse of a minister adding to an answer by going on to reflect at length on another member on the other side of the parliament. That was my original point of order, and now the minister has repeated it when all he was asked to do was withdraw. He should be disciplined by you.

The SPEAKER —The member for Werriwa must be well aware of the fact that a reading of the Hansard will indicate that the Deputy Prime Minister has done all that I could have asked him to do.