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Thursday, 25 May 1989
Page: 2751

Senator COOK (Minister for Resources)(8.37) —Let me go to the first set of questions, about the interim vessel, and if our worst fears are realised and there is in fact an inability to meet the 15 December to 15 January target.

Senator Calvert —What is the vessel, for a start?

Senator COOK —That is a good question, for this reason--

Senator Bishop —What is the answer? Why don't you tell him?

Senator COOK —Honourable senators should make all their interjections now because they will be sadly disappointed when they hear the answer. It is a good question for this reason: the tender for it has not yet been finalised. I answered the honourable senator's earlier question by saying that it would be cheaper than the tender figure when the proper vessel comes on stream. I am able to answer that question in that way because tenders have been called, the tendering process has been exhausted and tenders have closed. But no adjudication has yet been made on which will be the successful tenderer. Looking at the body of tenders submitted, we are able to say directly and informatively to the chamber that it will be cheaper than the $10.7m plus the inflator effect that I referred to before. I cannot answer the question until the tender process is completed and I am sure that the honourable senator does not want me to interfere in the tender process to provide him with an answer.

The second set of questions concerned Senator Richardson. I feel sorry for him in a way in that Opposition senators sometimes use him as a coconut shy for whatever allegations they want to trade. I think that is a little unfair to him and it is particularly crook when he is not in the chamber.

Senator Hill —We are starting to become more impressed by him. We are comparing you with your colleague.

Senator COOK —Senator Hill is fairly pathetic himself and the way in which he performed earlier was a shabby reflection on his ability on the front bench. The fact that he was a successful conspirator with those who deposed Mr Howard confers on him the privilege of sitting on the front bench; it says nothing for his intelligence.

Senator Stone —On a point of order, Mr Temporary Chairman: I ask you to direct the Minister to address the Chair rather than address a member of the Opposition across the chamber, therefore being totally disorderly.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Colston) —Order! I know how to conduct the chamber.

Senator COOK —Mr Chairman, through you I might say that if Senator Stone--

Senator Hill —Mr Chairman, I do not like being referred to as a conspirator. I find that quite offensive. I ask you to ask the Minister to withdraw it.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —I did not hear the world `conspirator'.

Senator Hill —Everyone else did. Ask him whether he said it.

Senator COOK —If I said something unparliamentary, I withdraw it. I do not think it is unparliamentary, but if it is I withdraw it. I should have said he was a colleague of those who moved to depose the former Leader of the Liberal Party, Mr Howard. We have heard from some of those on Four Corners how they saw that. One could accurately describe it as a conspiracy. It is under the bridge as far as I am concerned. Members of the Liberal Party have done it to themselves and they will have to live with it.

But let me not be distracted from answering Senator Calvert's question. That was the purpose for which I rose. I intend to complete my answer so that I can resume my seat. The tenders that Senator Calvert raised were departmental tenders. The Minister was not involved and did not interfere with them, nor did he direct that the work be allocated to a company in New South Wales.