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Wednesday, 27 November 1996
Page: 6144

Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate)(3.32 p.m.) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Newman), to a question without notice asked by Senator Watson today, relating to the effects of amendments made by the Senate to the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Newly Arrived Resident's Waiting Periods and other Measures) Bill 1996.

I do so because we have yet another clear example of Senator Newman deliberately misleading the Senate. Senator Newman came in at question time today and, with her usual overblown, untruthful, baseless rhetoric about the migrant waiting period legislation, she warned the Senate about the decision to block these measures being worth $400 million. According to AAP, this could mean higher taxes and put at risk lower interest rates. But the figure that she gave, the cost to the budget over the forward estimates period, was $400 million. That is what she told the Senate in question time today. But almost at the same time, in Melbourne, the Treasurer, Mr Costello, was doing a doorstop.

Senator Campbell —Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I am sorry to interrupt the Leader of the Opposition, but before he goes any further, I would ask him to withdraw the references to Senator Newman in relation to deliberately misleading and un truthfulness. He knows it is unparliamentary. He can say whatever he wants about Senator Newman, but he should do so in parliamentary language.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —It is unparliamentary—

Senator FAULKNER —I withdraw anything unparliamentary, Mr Deputy President.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —It is unparliamentary to accuse a minister or any member of parliament of being deliberately misleading and being untruthful.

Senator FAULKNER —I withdraw anything unparliamentary. Almost at the same time that Senator Newman was misleading the Senate in question time, Mr Costello said this—and let me quote the Reuters story:

Costello said the impact of the amendments on the Social Security (Newly Arrived Resident's Waiting Periods) Bill would shave $A200 million off the savings forecast to be achieved by the measure over the budget forward estimates.

Let me quote Mr Costello directly from the same story:

This is a blocking in relation to these measures alone of $200 million—$200 million of increased borrowings to pay for them that will be inflicted over the period of the forward estimates of this budget.

Either Mr Costello or Senator Newman is wrong. One of them is wrong. I believe that Senator Newman did mislead the Senate very clearly during question time today. I draw that to her attention, as she is required, under the code of ministerial conduct, the key elements of ministerial responsibility, to come to this chamber yet again and correct the record—tell the Senate the truth, use this parliamentary forum to correct the misinformation and the overblown rhetoric that we heard from Senator Newman during question time today.

While she is at it, she might care to look at what she said during a radio interview in Sydney this morning. She told John Laws, when asked if newly arrived migrants can receive parenting allowance, `from day one'. The question is: is that true or did she mislead on that radio program? When asked by John Laws if migrants can really get everything but the dole from day one, she said, `That's essentially it, yes, that's pretty right.' Of course, on both counts, again, she was wrong. She was very grossly wrong.

The fact is that after the passage of that legislation yesterday, newly arrived migrants are prohibited from receiving newstart allowance, sickness allowance, youth training allowance, for two years, and they are restricted from receiving parenting allowance for six months, as is currently the case. So not only do we have a minister who deliberately, in my view, misled the Senate during question time today and was exposed by Mr Costello for doing so, but also she misled the public on Sydney radio.

Senator Campbell —Mr Deputy President, I raise the same point of order. He has deliberately flouted your ruling—in fact, ignored your ruling—in relation to making accusations of deliberately misleading the Senate. He knows he has got other forums. If he honestly believes that, he should move a censure motion and try to prove it.

Senator FAULKNER —I have given you the proof.

Senator Campbell —The main point is that he has again used unparliamentary language in absolute contradiction of your ruling of less than two minutes ago.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I was distracted by the government whip, who had something of importance to tell me, so I did not hear the comment. But if the comment was made, I would ask that it be withdrawn.

Senator FAULKNER —I withdraw anything unparliamentary. But it is now time for Senator Newman to admit to this chamber that she was wrong. Clearly, the correct information was provided by the Treasurer. Both the Treasurer and Senator Newman cannot be right. The Treasurer's comments at the doorstop in Melbourne today were absolutely clear. What we have from Senator Newman is, as I say, very shrill rhetoric indeed and misleading claims in relation to the migrant waiting period legislation. It is baseless, it is anti-migrant rhetoric and it is a desperate bid on the part of Senator Newman to justify her cuts and the mania of this government to cut welfare spending. She and the government stand exposed. She should apologise now. (Time expired)

Question resolved in the affirmative.