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Tuesday, 3 March 1998
Page: 190

Mr KERR —My question is to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minister for the Environment has acknowledged in the Senate that a NHT grant benefited Senator Crane? Can the Prime Minister confirm that the application was signed by Dianne Crane and that another signatory was an N. Crane who Senator Hill said was `believed to be daughter-in-law to Senator Winston Crane'? Given that Senator Crane has acknowledged that he is a full partner in the property he owns, how can Senator Hill claim that there was no financial benefit to Senator Crane from the grant? In light of these revelations of personal and close family interests, was it appropriate for Senator Hill to involve Senator Crane in NHT funding decisions?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —You shouldn't telegraph these things quite so much. I inform the House that I have been informed that the situation in relation to this matter is as follows: the Australian Labor Party, through the member for Denison, is referring to the Yallobup Creek catchment project. I am informed that Dianne Crane and Nicky Crane did sign documents supporting funding bids under the NHT as part of community support for the application. The project, so I am informed, is directed at fencing and revegetation, and the planting of native trees and shrubs. It is part of a large-scale, coordinated effort to—

Mr McMullan —Stolen goods.

Mr HOWARD —Stolen goods? For somebody whose mate has been caught on video handing over confidential court documents, that is a pretty good effort—and his leader is too gutless to do anything about it. Mr Deputy Speaker, they talk about stolen goods; how on earth can you tolerate having somebody on your front bench who is aiding and abetting Christopher Skase? How can you tolerate it? He has set out deliberately to undermine the pursuit of Skase; he has deliberately tried to undermine Skase's position—and you know that. Returning to the question, I apologise. I was—

Mr O'Keefe interjecting

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Bourke will feel the pressure if he keeps going.

Mr HOWARD —I was provoked by the interjection by the member for Hotham. As a result of that, I got diverted. I apologise.

Mr Crean —Mr Deputy Speaker—

Mr HOWARD —Provoke me again, please, Simon.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for Hotham will resume his seat.

Mr HOWARD —Returning to the question asked by the member for Denison—

Mr Crean —Mr Deputy Speaker, I asked him to withdraw that because I made no such interjection. If he persists with it, I suggest to you, the parliament is being deliberately deceived.

Mr HOWARD —Mr Deputy Speaker, I realise that it was the member for Canberra and not the member for Hotham who interjected. I apologise to the member for Canberra for not giving him his due publicity. I know they are sensitive on the front bench about how much Hansard space they get.

Mr Downer —And about Canberra as well.

Mr HOWARD —Yes, they are very sensitive about Canberra, too. To return: if I could be protected from interjections, I might be able to finish this answer.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Prime Minister, I am trying to protect you.

Mr HOWARD —Could I just say in reply to the member for Denison—

Mr Martin Ferguson interjecting

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I will send you somewhere, too, if you don't watch out.

Mr HOWARD —The project is directed—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for Denison has asked a very important and serious question. He deserves to hear the answer.

Mr HOWARD —I was saying that the project is directed at fencing.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr HOWARD —Mr Deputy Speaker, they asked a question yet they do not want to listen to the answer. I will simply wind up question time.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Has the Prime Minister completed his answer?

Mr Howard —Yes. Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper .

Mr Kerr —The Prime Minister was referring to a document. I ask that the document be tabled.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Was the Prime Minister consulting a confidential document with private notes?

Mr Howard —Yes.