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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1281

Senator SCULLION (Leader of the Nationals in the Senate) (2:35 PM) —My question is to Senator Evans, the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Given the reports in the Northern Territory News today that Senator Crossin has been forced to apologise to the Prime Minister for her disgraceful comments on the Northern Territory intervention, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate now demand that Senator Crossin offer an apology to the hundreds of abused children and their families who she clearly belittled?

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I am not aware of the report that Senator Scullion referred to.

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator CHRIS EVANS —I always try and get the Northern Territory News as early as possible to scour it but, on this occasion, prior to coming into question time I did not have a chance to see that. But if this again relates to the questions covered last week regarding—

Senator Sterle interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Sterle, you will withdraw that comment.

Senator Sterle —Mr President, I withdraw that statement.

Senator CHRIS EVANS —I thank Senator Minchin for providing me with a copy. Can I just indicate, as I did last week when Senator Scullion asked similar questions—I thought I answered, on at least two occasions, the question he raised—that Senator Crossin made a statement to the parliament explaining her comments and putting it all in context. We covered this ground last week. I do not understand why Senator Scullion seeks to raise it again, other than to run off something that was in the paper. Can I again indicate that Senator Crossin has always supported the interests of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory. While I have not had a chance to read the article in full, the sub-headline—that Senator Crossin has been shunned by the party—is complete nonsense.

Senator SCULLION —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I wonder if the Leader of the Government in the Senate is aware that when he continues to try to defend these outrageous comments people in the wider Australian public would see him as actually condoning them.

Senator CHRIS EVANS (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —As I indicated last week, Senator Scullion, that does you no credit at all. That does you no credit at all. I would never accuse anyone in this chamber of condoning child sexual abuse. You ought to think about withdrawing that slur because it does you and it does the Liberal Party no credit at all.

Senator Scullion —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. In terms of clarification of my comment, I was not referring to—

The PRESIDENT —Order! You may take a point of order. If you wish to clarify any statements, you will do it at the end of question time. Senator Evans, have you concluded your answer?

Senator CHRIS EVANS —I have.