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Tuesday, 3 December 2002
Page: 6987

Senator CONROY (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, Senator Coonan. In light of the Prime Minister's statement yesterday that the Assistant Treasurer would be making a full explanation of her position to the Senate, and given that the minister has now had time to consider whether she witnessed her husband's change of enrolment, can she today inform the Senate what the facts are in relation to her husband's change of enrolment to Clareville? Minister, did you or did you not witness the form and thereby attest to the accuracy of the statements he made in that form?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —The answer is no.

Government senators interjecting

Senator CONROY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister now confirm when she first became aware of the details of this enrolment, whether the purpose of this change of enrolment did in fact relate to taxation arrangements and what action the minister took when she became aware of the enrolment?

Government senators interjecting

Senator Abetz —Mr President, I rise on a point of order.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Abetz, I did not hear the last part of that question. If you are taking a point of order on what Senator Conroy said, I cannot answer it because I did not hear it for the noise on my right.

Senator Abetz —My point of order relates to relevance to the minister's portfolio responsibilities. What was in the mind of a certain person when they filled out a form is clearly not within the minister's capacity to answer and should be ruled out of order. It has no bearing on her ministerial responsibilities. Above all, it would fall under the standing order of not allowing hypothetical questions, because she could not know what was going on in that person's mind at the time he filled out the form.

Senator Faulkner —Mr President, on the point of order: among other things, above the din caused by the government trying to cover up and make a lot of noise while Senator Conroy asked his question, he was asking when Senator Coonan was aware of these matters relating to Mr Rogers's enrolment. That surely is in order, and I ask you to direct the minister to answer the question.

The PRESIDENT —As you would know, I cannot ask the minister to answer a question in a particular way, but I did hear that first part. Minister, would you answer the first part of the question? I did not hear the second part.

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —I thank Senator Conroy for his supplementary question. Senator Conroy, you are in the very unfortunate position of having made an allegation against me that you cannot make stick. You clearly tried to set up an inference yesterday that I had witnessed an enrolment form, and you made allegations that the enrolment was false—which you could not know. You have now come an absolute cropper, because I had nothing to do with that enrolment. What I can do, because I think it is appropriate, is table a statement from my husband that he put out yesterday. I think it should be part of the record of the Senate and I table the document.