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Tuesday, 14 October 2003
Page: 21300


Mr TANNER (2:47 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to reports today that Senator Alston, the government's recently departed minister for Telstra, had a contingent interest in a family trust with almost $70,000 worth of shares in Telstra and that Senator Alston advanced two loans to that trust while he was the minister. Was the Prime Minister aware of Senator Alston's financial interest in this family trust, its ownership of shares in Telstra and his loans to the trust prior to his decision to stand down from the ministry? When did the Prime Minister first become aware that his minister for Telstra had an effective financial interest in Telstra through this family trust arrangement?


Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —Senator Alston, when he was the minister, complied fully with the requirements of disclosure. There are a couple of statements in the question that are wrong. He did not have an effective interest in Telstra; it was a contingent interest in a family trust. It is apparent from the statement that was issued today by Senator Alston that he went to great lengths to ensure that he complied in full with his obligations. The senator himself has indicated that he did not know of the ownership of the Telstra shares until yesterday. In those circumstances, it is a bit absurd of the member for Melbourne to suggest that I had known earlier. The answer is: I did not know in advance of Senator Alston. There has been no breach at all of the ministerial guidelines.