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Wednesday, 15 August 2007
Page: 76

Mr SWAN (2:26 PM) —My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer to the 2005 dinner at the Waters Edge restaurant attended by the Treasurer, his press secretary and three senior journalists. I also refer to the notes of the Treasurer’s comments, taken by a journalist at that dinner and quoted on The 7.30 Report last night, that (1) he had set a mid-term deadline for the Prime Minister to hand over the leadership, (2) he was prepared to go to the backbench, (3) he would carp at Howard’s leadership from the backbench and destroy it until he won the leadership, and (4) ‘Howard cannot win, but I can.’

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —I rise on a point of order. Standing order 98(c), which I have referred to previously, says:

(c)   A Minister can only be questioned on the following matters, for which he or she is responsible or officially connected:

(i)   public affairs;

(ii)   administration; or

(iii)   proceedings pending in the House.

It goes on to say that questioners may not ask ministers for an expression of opinion. The question is clearly out of order.

The SPEAKER —I remind the member for Mackellar that I have already ruled on the substance of this question. I call the member for Lilley. I ask him to come to his question. He does not need such a long preface to the question.

Mr SWAN —My question to the Treasurer is very simple: which of these four statements does the Treasurer deny making?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —Let me make it entirely clear: at the Waters Edge restaurant—not on 5 March, because I was at my brother’s birthday party, and not on 3 March, because I was at the Essendon Football Club—on 2 June, as I recall, I had the fish. I recall that.

Mr Albanese —You wouldn’t have had chicken.

Mr COSTELLO —No, I did not touch the fowl in honour of the member for Fowler—and I rarely eat chicken, out of respect for the rooster. Apart from a very enjoyable dinner and a nice chat about political life, all of the things that were allegedly going to come true did not. If you want to judge 2005 conversations by what they carry of import in Australian politics then presumably you would look at what actually happened—and all of these predictions did not come true.

Mr Martin Ferguson interjecting

Mr COSTELLO —No, I did not have the curry either, sound-effects man—and aren’t you lucky I didn’t? Apart from that, I have thoroughly dealt with all these matters.