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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 645


Mr KENT(10.38) —I welcome the Opposition's decision to withdraw its amendment, but I do not welcome the comments of the Opposition members at the beginning of the debate. The instinct of Opposition members is to defend the propertied classes, the gentry, the classes that were for many years legislating in the Parliament for their own interests and not for the people of Australia. That is what the Opposition is doing and that is why our taxation system is in such a quagmire. Opposition members have never paid their taxes. They have protected those who were evading their taxes, and that is what they are trying to do again.


Mr Ian Cameron —Why don't you go to Moscow?


Mr KENT —This has nothing to do with Moscow. Honourable members pay their taxes here. The Opposition must not defend tax evaders. That is what we are talking about. Opposition members must not defend only the propertied classes who sent them to Parliament to do that. They must declare their interests. The honourable member for Moreton (Mr Donald Cameron) talked about little Johnnie getting a push bike worth $110, but he did not mention little Johnnie getting a family trust of $1m. How about that? Sir Garfield Barwick was good at family trusts.


Mr Howard —Stop talking about your Treasurer like that.


Mr KENT —The honourable member should shut up. He has been Treasurer. He had better keep quiet. He was in government for seven years and he ruined this country so he had better keep quiet on the Opposition benches. I am a member of the Committee of Members' Interests which will decide the way we will go about this matter. We can go about it in a sensible way. In every democracy it is only rightful to ask whether people have a clash of interests and to be able to establish those interests and verify them. People have to declare their interests. I do not mind being a member of that Committee and ironing out the difficulties in a fair way. We heard from the front runners in the Opposition, such as the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), who said that he had nothing to hide. Of course, two judicial inquiries were held in regard to the matters that he had to hide, so who can believe that he has nothing to hide? Another member of the Opposition, the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar), who said that we cannot declare our interests carried into the country in his suitcase something which he would not declare. It was a black and white or colour television set. I question the credentials of members of the Opposition when they talk about a declaration of their interests. I do not mind debating this matter as a member of the Committee or in this House, but I warn honourable members that we will not use the debate to stall the issue.

The question as to whether journalists should declare their interests will be debated, but that is a separate matter. In my opinion they are certainly in a different category. They do not legislate, but they have some influence because they report what members have said. That is sometimes very boring, I admit. But they do not affect legislation and they do not make the decisions. The decisions are made by the Parliament and I think the interests of members should be declared so that the public-the voters, the people of Australia-can see that there is no clash of interests as to whether members hold directorships, for instance, or properties, or whether they have not taken into account a million dollar investment in rural properties when they are fighting for rural subsidies. We want to be able to establish whether there is a clash of interest in that regard. The only way to establish that is for members to declare their interests.