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Tuesday, 18 May 1993
Page: 706

Senator CRANE —My question is directed to the Minister for Transport and Communications. Last week the Minister decried any suggestion that Christine Goode should be dissuaded from her offer to stand aside. Yet when the secretary to the department, Mr Evans, offered to resign, the Prime Minister would not have a bar of it. I ask the Minister: is there any explanation for this blatant double standard other than that the Prime Minister realises that if he acknowledges Mr Evans's acceptance of the doctrine of responsibility for the actions of one's subordinates, then the Minister would have no option but to do the same?

Senator COLLINS —Mr President, I absolutely fail to understand the logic of that question because I applied precisely the same standard to Mr Evans's decision as I did to Ms Goode's. That is, I assumed they were both—and they are—mature and sensible adults who could reach decisions on their own. As Senator Crane knows, I did not interfere with either decision, despite the absolutely outlandish suggestion of Senator Alston—laid out in Question Time—that I should have physically gone across to the department and tried to persuade Ms Goode not to do it.

  As I said to others afterwards, just imagine the repercussions of that. Had I been so foolish—and I would never have been—to have gone across to the department, attempted to intercede in a personnel issue which was entirely a matter for the Public Service and had nothing to do with me, attempted to persuade anyone not to resign and failed, and that person had gone ahead and done it, can the Senate imagine what would be being said in here? It is a nonsensical proposition.

  I accepted the advice I received in the first instance as being honest advice—knowing the integrity of the two officers concerned—and that that decision had been taken by Ms Goode by agreement with Mr Evans. I had no dispute with the course of action that Mr Evans proposed to me that he intended to take. That was also a matter for him. But I said to Mr Evans that I would say to the Prime Minister with regard to his proposed course of action that these errors, however regrettable—and they are indeed regrettable—would have to be set aside from the very significant record of achievement of this department over the last five years in the areas of shipping, the waterfront, road and rail, infrastructure, telecommunications, broadcasting and aviation. In my view, it is a significant record of progress over the last five years and one which the Government and the department should rightly be proud of.