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Tuesday, 28 June 1994
Page: 2074

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister apologise for misleading the parliament in his false claim, repeated for the third time yesterday in the House of Representatives, that the Environment Protection Authority of New South Wales had lost a pollution action against his then half-owned, environmentally questionable Parkville piggery and that the EPA had to suffer `a humiliating retraction of its statement'? Why did the Prime Minister continue to repeat this false attack on the EPA when he knew that it was false and that the only failed EPA prosecution of a Keating piggery was of a totally different, far distant, relatively small piggery at Tamworth in 1991 for illegally discharging effluent into a creek, and that the prosecution failed only on the technical point that the pollution flowed into a paddock before entering the creek? Will the Prime Minister at last tell the truth about his polluting Parkville piggery where he planned a multimillion dollar expansion and which his own environmental consultants, Camp, Scott and Furphy, admitted in public hearing had been polluting the environment while Mr Keating half-owned it?

Senator GARETH EVANS —This question involves an action in the New South Wales courts. It is not a matter which falls remotely in any way into the Prime Minister's portfolio. It does, of course, involve allegations against a company in which the Prime Minister used to hold shares but in which he no longer has any interest whatsoever. My understanding is that a prosecution can be brought by the EPA of New South Wales against the directors of a company or its operational manager. The Prime Minister was never a director or an operational manager. So I fail to see how this prosecution or anything the Prime Minister has said about this prosecution can be said to involve him personally.

  If Senator Baume wants to make accusations about people or companies being guilty of anything, he should be careful. No guilt has been proven in the particular prosecution he is referring to which is, since last Friday, absolutely sub judice. If he cannot get his act sorted out about which context he is asking questions in, and if he leaves some residual uncertainty in people's minds about which particular prosecution he is talking about, that is not the Prime Minister's responsibility or mine to clean up; it is his. He should just try to clean up his act generally instead of pursuing this issue which has nothing to do with any issue of public accountability.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I ask the minister to perhaps clean up his act because he says it is nothing to do with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has misled the parliament. That is not unusual, but it has something to do with the parliament. I ask: was Mr Keating deliberately misleading the parliament, or was he wrong because he either did not know or did not care whether his then owned Parkville piggery was polluting the environment or not? Why did the Prime Minister make the equally false claim yesterday that the Keating piggery had not been notified by the EPA of this month's prosecutions against it for two separate acts of pollution last year while he was its half owner when, in fact, the Parkville piggery was informed of the decision on 17 June and the EPA public announcement of the charges was not until five days later?

Senator GARETH EVANS —As I understand it, Mr President, the Prime Minister is perfectly accurate in saying that an action by the authority against the particular company in respect of some aspect of its piggery operations did in fact fail. That is what he said. It might have been a different question that Senator Baume was referring to yesterday. But, if he cannot, as I said, straighten out this sort of confusion, he cannot expect the Prime Minister to do so in a situation where he has not, and never has had, any operational responsibility for the affairs of the company. He has never been a director of the company. He has never been its operational manager. He has never been someone who has had the responsibility for that sort of thing. He was, at best, a shareholder.

  Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.