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Tuesday, 23 November 1993
Page: 3410

Senator FERGUSON —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories—I hope that he has not exhausted all of his briefing notes in answer to a previous question. I refer to page 12 of the Auditor-General's report on the community and sporting facilities program which states that 11 per cent of the projects that Mrs Kelly approved had previously been labelled by the department as:

. . . lacking in relevant information, for which the community need has not been adequately demonstrated and many other selection criteria not satisfied. . .

How does the minister explain giving 11 per cent of grants to projects previously rejected by the department? In parliament yesterday, Mrs Kelly said:

The department then went through those applicants and worked out who was and was not eligible. . . . if an applicant was not eligible, the application was not considered.

How does the minister reconcile that statement with the previous statement?

Senator SCHACHT —I will refer the detail of those questions to Mrs Kelly.

Senator O'Chee —She doesn't have the documentation either.

Senator SCHACHT —I thought Senator O'Chee would have disappeared for a while. He is willing to support particular grants. Senator O'Chee is willing to write letters in support of this program, to say that it is an excellent program and to ask the minister to give money; now he is interjecting and saying it is an outrageous program. I find the hypocrisy of this a little hard to take even when it is from the opposition. Nevertheless, I will take the question directed to me from Senator Ferguson relating to the detail of the 11 per cent of grants and refer it to Mrs Kelly and respond to the honourable senator accordingly in the next couple of days.

Senator FERGUSON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given that the statement by Mrs Kelly appears to conflict with those that were made by the Auditor-General, can the minister produce the evidence that shows that Mrs Kelly has not misled the parliament?

Senator SCHACHT —I do not think I have seen any evidence produced anywhere that accuses Mrs Kelly of misleading the parliament. I do not believe, from my recollection of reading the report from the audit office, that there is any inference in that report which suggests that Mrs Kelly has misled the Auditor-General or the parliament. That is from my recognition of reading the document. I do not accept that Senator Ferguson can just get up and assert that she has misled the parliament.

Senator Ferguson —I didn't assert it. I said that she could produce evidence that she didn't.

Senator SCHACHT —Senator Ferguson certainly did assert that she misled the parliament. The opposition has been throwing around all sorts of accusations quite carelessly, accusing Mrs Kelly of impropriety and trying to smear her name. She is now being accused of misleading the parliament or the Auditor-General. As far as I am aware, no evidence has been submitted by the opposition or anybody else to show that she has misled anybody, particularly the opposition.