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Thursday, 29 May 2003
Page: 15385


Mr CREAN (Leader of the Opposition) (9:01 AM) —Yesterday, during additional answers to questions without notice, a point of order was raised by the Leader of the House about an interjection from me. During that point of order, I said:

I made no remark I consider inappropriate, Mr Speaker.

The Speaker later said:

I do not know what remark the Leader of the Opposition made. I will check the Hansard record and revisit the issue, unless there is anything the Leader of the Opposition wants to do at this stage.

The record does show that I made an interjection directed to the member for Parramatta. It is contained in the record, and it says:

You mustn't be much of a member, Ross; $3,000—you've just got the price—

and then it tails off, presumably `wrong'. The point I made subsequent to the Speaker's intervention was:

Mr Speaker, I made no comment directed to the member for Parramatta ...

Clearly, that is wrong. I did make a comment to the member for Parramatta in relation to payment, because the record says so. But, indeed, the very point made was that the member's representations were rejected by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, and I asked what changed apart from the money. All I am saying is: if the member for Parramatta takes offence, I withdraw the remark. But I make the point that my objection was not to him making representations—which the minister rejected—on behalf of his constituent. The whole allegation yesterday was not that the member for Parramatta was doing wrong; we wanted to know the motives of the minister.


The SPEAKER —I will pick up on the point made by the Leader of the Opposition from the chair's perspective. The Leader of the Opposition indicated—understandably, in the heat of the moment—that he had not made a comment to the member for Parramatta. In fact, he had. That was the matter I sought to have clarified. Clearly, the contents of that remark were deemed, not unreasonably, by the Leader of the House to have been offensive to the member for Parramatta in the context in which they are contained in the Hansard. If I understand the Leader of the Opposition correctly, he has indicated his preparedness to withdraw that remark if the member for Parramatta is offended.


Mr Abbott —Mr Speaker, I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition for indicating that he is prepared to withdraw the comments directed to the member for Parramatta. But there is another issue as well, and that is that the Leader of the Opposition said in the parliament:

Mr Speaker, I made no comment directed to the member for Parramatta in relation to payment.

Plainly, he did, so he should not only withdraw the reflection on the member for Parramatta but also apologise to the House for inadvertently, I assume, misleading the House.


Mr CREAN —I have acknowledged the correction of the fact. Clearly, the record does demonstrate that I did make a comment directed to the member for Parramatta concerning payment. I said:

Mr Speaker, I made no comment directed to the member for Parramatta in relation to payment.

Clearly, that was wrong; I did. But if you read the rest of the comments you will see that what I was saying to the member for Parramatta effectively implied that he had made representations which were ineffective, and he was trying to do the right thing as a good local member. My complaint was directed at the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs for not having followed the representations of the member but for then, we believe, subsequently being influenced by another factor. Time will tell in relation to that. That has been the subject of questions in the parliament. If the government wants to continue down this path, I welcome them to do so.


The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition has made his point. The Leader of the House.


Mr Abbott —I do not wish to go into the various explanations and arguments that have just been advanced by the Leader of the Opposition. The fact is that he said something in this chamber on the Hansard record. He then denied saying what the record shows he did say. He did—inadvertently, I assume—mislead the House, and he should apologise for misleading the House inadvertently.


The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition has indicated that if the member for Parramatta was offended by the remark he made, he is happy to withdraw it. I am not presuming on the offence, but the member for Parramatta is present in the House and I therefore assume that he would like the remark withdrawn. The Leader of the Opposition has volunteered to do so. In that context, I believe the matter is closed. The concern for the chair at the time was that the Leader of the Opposition genuinely believed he had not made a comment directed to the member for Parramatta, and he has subsequently indicated this morning that, if that was the case, it was an error of judgment on his part.


Mr Abbott —It was the case.


The SPEAKER —It was the case, and he has indicated that it was an error of judgment on his part. From my point of view, the matter is closed.