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Wednesday, 16 December 1992
Page: 5203

Senator LEWIS (5.11 p.m.) —I have given my Whip an undertaking that I will only be a couple of minutes, and I shall be only a couple of minutes. There are just a few things I want to say. Firstly, I have repeatedly raised in this Parliament the question of government business enterprises and the contracting arrangements that they enter into. Over a period of many years, certain safety precautions have been put into place when governments enter into contracts in order to make sure that things such as Senator Schacht suggested—that people would say that Ministers were rorting the system—would not happen. When this Government went down the government business enterprise path—not a genuine privatisation—it forgot about those safety precautions. I have warned the Government repeatedly; I still warn it, and I am glad to hear that Senator Schacht says it is a matter which the Government must address. The Government certainly must address it, and privatisation is a matter which our Ministers will have to address as we go down the path of privatisation.

  Secondly, I pose the question: is the Civil Aviation Authority the sort of body that ought to be privatised anyway? It was privatised for one reason, and that was that the Government needed to fix up the salary structure. It could not do that under government arrangements because of the salaries that are paid at government level, so it privatised the authority, fixed up the salary level and was able to employ a chairman at some fabulous salary. He adopted a business approach to this and said, `Let's cut through all the red tape and let's forget about governments and responsibility to the people of Australia and all the rest of it'.

  If the Minister goes to the Melbourne airport he should walk around the car park and look at the car parking places that the Civil Aviation Authority people have given themselves. They have taken over the prime car parking positions at the Melbourne airport so that they can park their cars close to the terminal. Members of the public have to park a long way away and walk a longer distance.

Senator Collins —CAA or FAC?

Senator LEWIS —I apologise. Senator Collins is quite right, the FAC. That is a typical example of the mind-set, `Because we are running the show, we are entitled to high priority'. Again, I ask Senator Collins: was the Civil Aviation Authority a body that ought to have been privatised? Is that the sort of body that ought to be set into a government business enterprise?

  Thirdly, I want to mention the abuse by Senator Collins. He ought to be ashamed of himself. He ought to publicly apologise to Senator MacGibbon for what he kept saying to him. I remember that on one occasion I stood up and said, `This smells'. I have a good lawyer's nose and I said, `I don't know a great deal about this, but this smells'. I do not care for any of these parties, I do not represent any of these parties, yet Senator Collins interjected by saying something which implied that in some way or other I was acting as a lobbyist for one of the tenderers, which was quite outrageous at the time. There was nothing I could do about it, except make some personal explanation in the Senate, but it is too late when we get that sort of rough interjection. I say to Senator Collins that there are a number of people in this place that he ought to apologise to, in particular, starting with Senator MacGibbon. I think that Senator Macdonald might be right; the Minister's behaviour in this area is such as to warrant serious consideration as to his entitlement to remain on the front bench.

  Finally, I did not know a great deal about this until I started to listen to the questions Senator MacGibbon was asking. I sought information—which Senator Collins could have obtained too—and the moment I started to talk to people about the information, it became clear to me that it was shonky. I raised it in Parliament and got rubbished.

  There is another matter going on at the present moment which is shonky. I have raised it in Parliament, and again I have been rubbished. The media will not take any interest in it. Let me tell the Parliament that in the same way that there is something wrong with this particular contract with the CAA, there is something wrong with the accounts of the Brown and Hatton Group and the interests of the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) and the former Minister, Mr John Brown, in it. The Government needs to address it urgently, otherwise there will be an inquiry which will ultimately disclose something about which all Government members will be ashamed.

  Debate (on motion by Senator Reid) adjourned.