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Tuesday, 12 November 2002
Page: 6074

Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (2:10 PM) —My question is directed to the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Alston. Given the minister's equivocal answer to my question yesterday on whether he had spoken to anyone else in the Major Fraud Group of Victoria Police about their investigation of COT cases, I ask him again: did he or did he not speak to Detective Sergeant Rod Keuris?

Senator ALSTON (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —I will make it plain. Having refreshed my memory of matters that occurred 3½ years ago and spoken to people like Senator Boswell who were intimately involved in these matters, I have absolutely no recollection of speaking to anyone other than Mr Jepson. As I indicated to the Senate yesterday, the discussion that occurred between my chief of staff and the Victoria Police Media Unit also makes it plain that, as far as they are concerned, there were only those two conversations. They do not refer to anyone else; there is therefore no basis for any suggestion that I spoke to anyone else. I think the suggestion arises from the fact that Mrs Garms, on one of the programs I saw, was reported as saying that she had been told by investigating officers that I had spoken to them. It may well be that different investigating officers have said that I had rung the Major Fraud Group, but all the evidence indicates that the only calls I made were to Mr Jepson.

Senator FAULKNER —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I note the minister's answer and I also ask the minister whether he recalls saying in answer to my question yesterday:

I have no reason to believe that the police have any understanding that I rang anyone else. Certainly I have absolutely no knowledge of any suggestion.

Given the minister's continuing inability to answer this important question categorically, will he undertake to check with Detective Sergeant Keuris, through appropriate channels, to establish whether Detective Sergeant Keuris recalls a conversation with the minister, and will he report back to the Senate on the outcome of such an inquiry through appropriate channels?

Senator ALSTON (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —I am not here to go off on wild goose chases to suit Senator Faulkner's convenience. I simply say once again that, according to the government liaison officer of the Victoria Police—and we made inquiries of them to ascertain whether there was any basis for the proposition that I had spoken to anyone other than Mr Jepson—who spoke to my chief of staff yesterday morning, only two phone calls were made by me, both on the same day. According to the Victoria Police government liaison officer, my first phone call was to ask whether the police were aware of recent material relating to the alleged upgrade of the Fortitude Valley exchange. According to the same liaison officer, my second phone call was to ask whether the police had contacted senior management at Telstra about this matter. So there is nothing at all—

Senator ALSTON —I am telling you: he is authorised to speak on behalf of the police. I have asked whether there is any basis for suggestions that I rang anyone other than Mr Jepson, if that was the purpose of the inquiry, and that is the answer I have received. (Time expired)