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Tuesday, 16 November 1993
Page: 2896

Senator COLLINS (Minister for Transport and Communications) (5.04 p.m.) —I wish to refer briefly to a statement that Senator Ian Macdonald made a few moments ago in his address which is factual nonsense. Senator Macdonald made an assertion that the considerable One Nation funds that were expended by this government were expended for party pork-barrelling and partisan reasons.

  As one of the ministers involved in the strategic planning for the expenditure of those funds, a great deal of them in the portfolio of transport and communications, I wish to correct the record and point out to Senator Ian Macdonald, as I am sure he well knows, that the statement is just nonsense.

Senator Campbell —It is partly true.

Senator COLLINS —Senator Campbell might be interested to know where the majority of the funds are going in this financial year. The One Nation funding was designed strategically to provide this country, for the first time in its history, with a standard gauge rail link, under a single interstate rail operator, from Brisbane to Perth, linking all of the major capital cities of Australia—Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and across to Perth. In addition, it was also designed to provide the strategic links necessary with the port infrastructure to connect with that rail line. The decisions had nothing whatever to do with party considerations, despite the careless use of the truth by Senator Ian Macdonald.

  I might add for Senator Macdonald's information that, for example in this current financial year, the bulk of those rail funds, in terms of going to a single entity, will be spent in the conservative state of Victoria. The assertions are absolutely false and deserve to be identified as such.

  In order to correct the record once again, as a number of coalition senators have a careless disregard for the truth, I will take the opportunity while I am on my feet to table page 5 from my Hansard pinks of 28 October 1993. This indicates comprehensively that the statements made by Senator MacGibbon in this house about 15 minutes ago are flatly wrong and that the assertions that I made are in fact accurate.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Mr Acting Deputy President, on a point of order—

Senator COLLINS —I can table a paper any time I like, Senator.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Senator Collins can sit down while I am making my point of order. We are currently discussing government documents. Senator Campbell has spoken and I have spoken. The minister was speaking in relation to the One Nation statement, which was not directly in line but it was at least mentioned by me and I assume he has the right to respond to that. But tabling something in relation to a matter and speaking on a matter that has absolutely nothing to do with the question before the chair is, I think, most inappropriate and should not be allowed on the basis that it is completely irrelevant to the question before the chair. Even in the honourable senator's own words, it relates to a matter that has been dealt with at some previous time this afternoon.

  The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Herron)—I understand that the minister can table a document without leave at any time. The point of relevance, I would think, is fairly elastic in this chamber; so I will allow the minister's comments.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.