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Tuesday, 9 February 1999
Page: 2194


Mr BEAZLEY (3:22 PM) —Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. The simple fact of the matter is that this is part of an accountability process. The particular question asked of the minister the other day was not the sort of political argy-bargy which regularly gets engaged in on both sides of the House. It was at that point of time when question time, as it occasionally becomes used for its traditional purposes, was being used for its traditional purposes, and that is to hold a minister accountable on a detail of public administration.

I remember distinctly and we have reviewed the tape. We saw the minister standing with the totality of his brief. As was indicated by the Manager of Opposition Business, when he stood there were at least two pages. The minister got up in this place and his first answer here was that he quoted from only one.

It is an important point in a process of accountability: if a minister comes to the table with a departmental brief defending himself, is invited to table the brief and agrees to table it, I would agree that if the man had only the one page of his brief and the newspaper clipping that would be fine and you could make a judgment about that, but if he in fact brought to this table the totality of that brief and did not indicate to you or this chamber when invited to table it—as he is required to table it if he refuses to take protection under the arrangements associated with confidentiality at the time—then the entire brief should be tabled. If it also turns out, when you review that particular tape, that the minister concerned, coming in today saying that he only had those two pages with him and then elaborating on that point, in fact was not telling the truth, then I am afraid to say there is a serious problem resulting from that. So I would ask, Mr Speaker, that you review that tape.


Mr Reith —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. It is that indulgence was provided, as is in your discretion to do so, to allow the Leader of the Opposition to make his point, but he is not entitled to use that as an opportunity to make unreasonable and inaccurate statements about a member of the government. He lost question time yesterday. He needs to get a reminder by watching the tapes. It is quite a pathetic effort, and the fact that the minister has been open and transparent ought to be the end of the matter.


Mr SPEAKER —I do not intend to make any other comment on the matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition for this moment because, as he may not be aware, the member for Newcastle is seeking the call and I presume it is on the same matter.


Mr Allan Morris —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. It is on a remark you made. I refer you to standing order 321.


Mr SPEAKER —I am sorry, I must interrupt you. Is it on the same matter?


Mr Allan Morris —It is an associated matter.


Mr SPEAKER —I will hear the member for Newcastle.


Mr Allan Morris —You stated to the House a moment ago that the minister could table the page. Standing order 321 says `a document' not `a page'. I would like to suggest that the standing orders have always been about a document.


Mr Reith —On a point of order, Mr Speaker: the member for Newcastle has neither raised a point of order nor put a question to you. On that basis, he is just babbling on and he is not entitled to do so.


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Newcastle has made a point about whether or not a page or a document is the appropriate thing to table. I will grant him indulgence if he wishes to make any further comment.