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Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Page: 2629


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (15:01): My question is to the Minister for Defence. Did the minister utter the words attributed to him by Major General Cantwell, and does the minister deny the strict factual accuracy of Major General Cantwell's account of his visit to Afghanistan?

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (PerthMinister for Defence and Deputy Leader of the House) (15:01): That is effectively the same question as the previous two. Let me make these points. Firstly, out of regard for the contribution that Major General Cantwell has made, and his circumstances, I am not proposing to enter into a piece-by-piece running commentary on his contribution. I make that point firstly.

Secondly, I say again to the House, as I have said outside the House: I was surprised, disappointed and saddened by his contribution. His contribution was neither a fair nor a correct depiction of my trip or of my commitment to our forces in the field.

The SPEAKER: I note that the Manager of Opposition Business is going to raise an issue. I would counsel the minister to observe the standing orders.

Mr STEPHEN SMITH: I simply make the point that I was happy to receive the questions. They have been cause for me not to need to take an opportunity after question time to make the point that I have been misrepresented. I simply make the point, as well, that the article also referred to my colleague the former Minister for Defence, Mr Fitzgibbon. He has been quite clear about the accuracy so far as the material is concerned with respect to him.