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Monday, 10 April 2000
Page: 15556

Mr STEPHEN SMITH (2:34 PM) —My question is also to the Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the National Party and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. I refer the Deputy Prime Minister to the appointment of Mr Ray Braithwaite, a former National Party member of this House, to the government's Telstra inquiry panel. Why doesn't Mr Braithwaite's attendance and participation at the Queensland central council weekend meeting fatally compromise his role on the government's trumped up Telstra inquiry?

Mr ANDERSON (Deputy Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for the inevitable question—on which, if you note, he fudged very carefully—because the short answer to the question is that he specifically did not buy into the issue of the privatisation of Telstra. But the long answer is that this continues matters relating to the very question that you yourself asked about the party's internal procedures. That is the answer to the question. But the long answer, because I do want to make a couple of points here, is: when Ray Braithwaite left this place it was very widely acknowledged that he was—and this was recognised right across all sides of politics; it was widely acknowledged by the press gallery—a man whose integrity and decency had never been questioned in this place during the entire time that he served in public office. I find it grossly offensive that all the opposition spokesman can do in relation to this inquiry is seek to besmirch the name of decent Australians who have a capacity and a willingness to go out of their way to contribute to important national debates. The fact of the matter is Ray Braithwaite is on this inquiry because he was the member for Dawson for 20 years; he is a very experienced accountant in regional Australia; he was on the Industry Commission inquiry into the impact of national competition policy on regional Australia—

Mr Stephen Smith —Honorary director of the National Party.

Mr ANDERSON —He is of course a member of the National Party. Is that some sort of clandestine secret that has never been referred to? Is this some new revelation of shock horror that should disqualify him from making a contribution? What utter ridiculousness. It just reflects so poorly on the member for Perth that he really ought to hang his head in shame.