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Monday, 24 March 2003
Page: 13388

Mr PEARCE (9:14 PM) —I wish to raise the issue of parliamentary privilege this evening. This House and its workings, including parliamentary privilege, were designed to enable the business of the Australian people to be conducted in the most effective and beneficial manner. Unfortunately, it seems that too often it is abused by a select few who are blinded by their own interest and neglect the interests of our nation. Sadly, this occurred in the Main Committee last Wednesday. The member for Melbourne, speaking in an appropriations debate, engaged in his familiar unfortunate tactics, launching a baseless attack on Victorian businessman Ron Walker. The member for Melbourne produced no evidence whatsoever. In fact, he attempted to justify his speech on the basis that he had no evidence, with the exception of unnamed sources. Ron Walker has himself indicated the baseless nature of the allegation. I would like to take this opportunity to address the attack made on Ron Walker.

For fellow Victorians it may not seem necessary, but it is worth recapping, albeit briefly, the contribution that Ron Walker has made to Victoria and, indeed, Australia. Ron Walker's outstanding contribution to business, the arts, the community and in raising Australia's profile internationally was recognised when he was awarded the Companion in the Order of Australia. In serving the Victorian community in public life alone, Ron Walker has a long list of achievements. Ron Walker has served the people of Melbourne in elected office, becoming Melbourne's youngest lord mayor at the age of 34. Following his time in local government, Ron Walker was appointed by the then Labor Premier, Joan Kirner, as the head of Melbourne Major Events Company, an honorary position that he held for 10 years. He is currently the chairman of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee as well as chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, chairman of the Microsurgery Foundation of St Vincent's Hospital and a trustee of the National Gallery of Victoria.

But do not just take my word for it. I would like to tell you about the words of another fellow Victorian. I quote:

... I pay tribute to the tireless leadership that Ron Walker has undertaken over the last 10 years.

This fellow Victorian goes on to say:

Ron Walker has been dynamic and determined and he has delivered over the last 10 years. I congratulate him on behalf of the Victorian public for what he has delivered and I welcome his ongoing contribution to the organisation committee of the 2006 Commonwealth Games. I welcome also his continued stewardship and chairmanship of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation ...

So which fellow Victorian was praising Ron Walker, the supposed Liberal Party powerbroker? It was one of the member for Melbourne's fellow ALP travellers, Victorian Labor leader Steve Bracks.

The reality is that Ron Walker has served the people of Victoria in a bipartisan way, reflected in his exemplary service under both Labor and coalition administrations. In announcing Ron Walker's appointment to the Fairfax board, retiring Fairfax chairman Brian Powers noted that Ron Walker is a man of high integrity—clearly something that is lacking when it comes to the member for Melbourne. The member for Melbourne's behaviour is typical of the opposition under its current leader. The opposition leader's conduct in this matter spells volumes. Fairfax was so concerned about the member for Melbourne's false claims that it contacted the opposition leader prior to the speech to make it clear that the claims had no validity. Despite this, and despite a denunciation from a Fairfax executive, the member for Melbourne went ahead with his accusation anyway. This demonstrates two things: firstly, that the member for Melbourne is totally out of control, making defamatory statements without producing a skerrick of evidence to back them up; and, secondly, that the opposition leader does not have the respect or substance of leadership to rein in the member for Melbourne. The member for Melbourne's slide into the political gutter on this occasion and his personal attacks under the cloak of parliamentary privilege are a stain on this parliament. I call on the member for Melbourne to do the right thing and either correct the record of the House immediately or repeat his claims outside of the parliament and actually produce solid evidence to substantiate his accusations. (Time expired)