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Thursday, 17 December 1992
Page: 5356


Senator McMULLAN (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (3.42 p.m.) —I had no intention of entering this debate because I thought that the position had been adequately presented by Senator Ray and Senator Cooney, but there is one point that I wish to add to this debate. We have checked one fact that has been raised that was new and that was not contained in your response, Mr President. It was an allegation that had not been heard by anyone on this side. I want to say for the record that the Speaker, Mr McLeay, absolutely and categorically denies the allegation that he had previously been advised by anybody that he should not take the bike and that it was not suitable for him. He even denies that he went down to the health centre to get the bike. The bike was delivered to his office. His advice to us is unequivocal—that no such advice was ever offered.


Senator Alston —Is there a statement from the woman involved?


Senator McMULLAN —The honourable senator's fanatical attempt to put something on the record that will damage the Speaker is one of the very good reasons why the argument was put by Senator Ray and Senator Cooney that it is entirely inappropriate for people here to rise and purport to make quasi-judicial determinations about the nature of the decisions that have been made by the Australian Government Solicitor in this matter.


Senator Knowles —Why have you kept it quiet and hidden it?


Senator McMULLAN —Probably because we knew that people like Senator Knowles would leap into the gutter with it as soon as it became available—and every such fear has been proved 100 per cent plus.


Senator Alston —A judicious response—


Senator McMULLAN —No, I understand the question and the response. I enjoyed the response absolutely.


Senator Knowles —So you knew all along?


Senator McMULLAN —No, it came as news to me when it was announced. But I enjoyed the opportunity to make that response.


Senator Knowles —So you did know about it all the way along the line.


Senator McMULLAN —Compounding ignorance with misleading is not helpful.

  An incident having occurred in the Gallery—


Senator McMULLAN —The chamber is in grave danger of significantly abusing its responsibilities with regard to this matter on a day when many senators will soon be getting up and expressing serious concern about how late we are sitting and about how much business there is. Then we will have the rural senators getting up and saying, `Why are you dealing with the rural issues so late at night? It shows that the Government does not care about them'. I can hear all the speeches now. I think we might even hear one from Senator Herron, yet here he is getting up and pretending to be contributing in a serious, professional manner to what is merely another heap of rubbish on the smear trail. The only reason I got up to participate in this debate—although I have enjoyed the opportunity—is to say that the way that further allegation was dragged across the trail without checking—


Senator Knowles —You have known about it all the way along the line.


Senator McMULLAN —Ignorance is no excuse for Senator Knowles.


Senator Herron —Why was it covered up?


Senator McMULLAN —Not in the slightest. It is absolutely clear that the Speaker categorically denies that, and it is important that we put it on the record before the accidental misleading could have been compounded by people taking it up and pursuing it further.


The PRESIDENT —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.


Senator Alston —Mr President, pursuant to standing order 191, I wish to explain some material part of my speech which has been misquoted or misunderstood.


Senator McMullan —I didn't refer to your speech.


Senator Alston —Yes, the honourable senator did.


Senator McMullan —I was talking about Senator Hill.


Senator Alston —I have written down what the honourable senator said.


The PRESIDENT —Yes, Senator Alston. You have the right to make a speech now.