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Tuesday, 9 September 2003
Page: 14621

Senator MASON (3:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator Kemp. Is the minister aware of attempts by the Labor Party to damage the integrity of the Australian Sports Commission as an independent authority? Will the Minister advise the Senate of any misleading statements made by the Labor Party as part of their attack on the commission?

Senator Faulkner —Mr President, I raise a point of order. My understanding is that similar questions in this form have been ruled out of order by previous presidents. Could I ask you whether you intend to rule this in order or not?

The PRESIDENT —As the senator knows, asking hypothetical questions and asking for comments on other policies may be out of order, but I would ask the minister to answer those parts of the question that do not fall within that particular standing order.

Senator Faulkner —Mr President, I put it to you that the question as asked was out of order, consistent with the rulings that previous presidents have made. It has been a consistent approach of presidents to accept as in order a broad commentary on alternative approaches, but it has also been, in my understanding, the consistent approach of presidents and others presiding in this chamber to rule out of order questions asked in the very poor form that Senator Mason asked that particular question. I would ask you to rule it out of order.

The PRESIDENT —As I said previously, the second part of the question I believe was not in order but I do not believe that the first part was out of order.

Senator Mason —I happy to rephrase the question.

The PRESIDENT —No, you cannot do that. I ask the minister to answer that part of the question that was in order.

An opposition senator—It's an unfair question.

The PRESIDENT —That is your opinion, Senator; my opinion is different from yours.

Senator KEMP (Minister for the Arts and Sport) —I thank Senator Mason for that important question. I will certainly confine my remarks following the instruction by the President, as I always do. It pains me to have to do this, but I have to draw the Senate's attention occasionally to statements that Senator Lundy has made which have been dead wrong and which Senator Lundy has failed to correct. I am afraid that in recent times we have another very bad example of statements by Senator Lundy which are just plain wrong.

Let me inform the Senate that in an article in the Canberra Times on 27 August Senator Lundy made the outrageous and appalling allegation that the government had politicised two of Australia's very fine institutions, the National Capital Authority and the Australian Sports Commission. What was the evidence to support Senator Lundy's claim? This is the evidence: both those organisations had expressed the view that a major four-lane highway running through the Australian Institute of Sport was not a good idea. It will not surprise senators on this side of the chamber to learn that Senator Lundy has once again embarked on a cheap and disgraceful attack on these two institutions. I should note for the record that in a lengthy response to Senator Lundy's claims by the Chairman of the NCA, Mr David Evans, on 4 September 2003 Mr Evans described Senator Lundy's allegation as `a serious accusation which is entirely without foundation'. Likewise, Senator Lundy's suggestion that the government has politicised the Australian Sports Commission cannot stand up to scrutiny.

Senator Lundy supported a policy which I do not believe the Labor Party knew that Senator Lundy was proposing as part of the Labor Party policy. Senator Lundy wanted to put a four-lane highway through the front yard of the AIS, one of the jewels in Canberra's crown. She will ever wear it, I believe, as a badge of shame that she did that. Is it surprising that the AIS would be opposed to having a four-lane highway going through the institute? Is it surprising that the ASC, the Australian Sports Commission, would oppose such a policy—not on the grounds of being political but on the grounds of commonsense and of wanting to protect an institute which I believe is world class and is the envy of the rest of the world? Senator Lundy—without authorisation from her own party, I might say—was strongly supporting this crazy policy not supported by one sporting body in Australia. Never have we seen the shadow spokesperson for sport so out of touch with the needs of sport.

Senator Lundy could have played a very constructive role in this. She could have attempted to persuade the ACT government to change their plans—and in the end they had to change them. But Senator Lundy was out there trying to drive this four-lane highway through the Australian Institute of Sport. For Senator Lundy to go to the press and claim that this is a sign that the Australian Sports Commission is politicised is an absolutely outrageous statement, and it is a badge of shame that you will wear, Senator, for the rest of your time in this parliament. (Time expired)

Senator Cook —Mr President, I raise a point of order. In view of your ruling on the objection to this question that was raised by Senator Faulkner, will you look at standing order 73, which goes to questions not containing arguments, inferences or imputations and states that questions should stick with the facts? Bearing in mind that this question imputed a motive which was not true, will you later be able to reply to the Senate on how this question conforms with that standing order, for the information of senators?

The PRESIDENT —I will review the Hansard and will report back to the Senate on my ruling.

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