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Thursday, 9 December 1993
Page: 4267


Senator BISHOP —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories. In light of the Auditor-General's report, given such prominence by my colleague Mr Peter Costello, that grants made through the community cultural, recreational and sporting facilities program—

  Government senators interjecting


The PRESIDENT —Order!


Senator BISHOP —Thank you, Mr President. Can we start the minute again because of the ruckus?

  Government senators interjecting


The PRESIDENT —Order! There are too many interjections.


Senator BISHOP —I was referring to the Auditor-General's comments that the grants made by Mrs Kelly were politically motivated. Could the minister explain why a grant to the Cromer Junior Rugby League Football Club, in the seat of Mackellar, was denied, despite the words of Mrs Kelly herself in a letter dated 18 August 1993 to Mr Jim Carlton—


Senator Richardson —Oh, now we have it.


The PRESIDENT —Order!


Senator BISHOP —I know they are embarrassed, Mr President, and they should well be embarrassed.


Senator Faulkner —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Bishop's time has expired for the asking of this question.


The PRESIDENT —Order! I will allow Senator Bishop to finish the question because of the interruptions.


Senator Hill —That is the problem. She should have been able to get her question out.


The PRESIDENT —The clock should have been stopped. I am allowing it.


Senator Alston —They have taken up her time.


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Alston, I am allowing it.


Senator BISHOP —Thank you, Mr President. I was asking why a grant to the Cromer Junior Rugby League Football Club was denied despite the words of Mrs Kelly herself in a letter to Mr Jim Carlton saying that the club's project was deemed eligible for funding and yet received not one cent. Could the minister explain why that is the case?


Senator SCHACHT —I thought I was getting a dorothy dixer for the first time on this issue because this question is utterly motivated by the diminishing chances of Senator Bishop winning preselection for Mackellar on the weekend. One could imagine the leaflets are being prepared tonight in her office to be letter boxed all around the electorate, that this carpetbagger from outside the electorate is actually showing interest in the electorate.


Senator Alston —Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Surely this minister should not be allowed to live up to his name of `Cheap Schacht' by talking about something that is utterly irrelevant. Would you please direct him to return to the question?


The PRESIDENT —Order! There is no point of order. Senator Schacht, answer the question.


Senator SCHACHT —The question asked was about the Mackellar electorate. I think Senator Bishop should declare her interest in the Mackellar electorate. Everyone else knows about it. It is quite interesting that, in asking this question about the Cremorne rugby club, she clearly indicates—


Senator Bishop —Cromer.


Senator SCHACHT —Cromer rugby club. I did not hear the word; there were so many interjections when she asked the question. It is with some incredulity that we heard the question. Opposition senators cannot blame us for laughing because we are laughing about Senator Bishop's prospects of becoming leader of the Liberal Party via Mackellar. She quoted that Mr Carlton had written to Mrs Kelly seeking—


Senator Bishop —No, Mrs Kelly wrote to Mr Carlton.


Senator SCHACHT —But Senator Bishop clearly indicated that Mr Carlton was supporting the bid.


Senator Bishop —Get it right.


Senator SCHACHT —Well, okay. Here we have the Liberal Party claiming that this is a dreadful program and Senator Bishop has just given evidence that Mr Carlton wanted the money for a program in his electorate. Senator Bishop cannot have it both ways. She is over there slagging off at this program; however, I gave evidence here a couple of weeks ago about four Queensland senators from the other side supporting a grant for a club in Mackay, Queensland. It seems that every Liberal member individually wants to get the grants for their electorates but generally wants to bag the program.

  I do not know whether this answer helps Senator Bishop's preselection prospects in Mackellar. On our side of politics, we certainly hope it does. We believe she will certainly enhance our re-election prospects in 2 1/2 years time if she is in the lower house continuing to destabilise the leadership of Dr Hewson. If she wants assistance in running off the leaflets to go around the Mackellar Liberal Party electorate—after showing them that, as an outsider to the electorate, she has discovered where Mackellar is and she is interested in the local community—that is fine.


Senator Richardson —Give Peter Reith a go, too. He is undermining Dr Hewson, too.


Senator Bolkus —Is Reith here as her guest?


Senator SCHACHT —My colleagues have drawn attention to the fact—


The PRESIDENT —Order! Answer the question.


Senator SCHACHT —I am answering the question. I notice that Mr Reith has now joined the leadership struggle here in the Senate with Senator Bishop. But I will treat that last small part of Senator Bishop's question seriously. I will refer the particular case to Mrs Kelly and come back with the information. I understand that we are not sitting tomorrow. I would like to be able to give the information to the Senate next Monday or Tuesday when we know the result of Mackellar, and I can further comment.


Senator BISHOP —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Even for Senator Schacht that is pathetic. If I might say, when the minister is trying to find an answer, would he kindly justify—in the light of having denied the Cromer Rugby League Football Club its grant—why the marginal Labor seat of Richmond received 11 grants totalling in excess of $160,000 while not one cent was found for the electorate of Mackellar for an amenities block to be used by children and others instead of having to cross a busy and dangerous road to use an adjoining petrol station's toilet facilities?


Senator Gareth Evans —Tell us about the subdivision.


Senator BISHOP —The question—


Senator Gareth Evans —Tell us the cost of a home in the subdivision.


The PRESIDENT —Order!


Senator Hill —Mr President, I raise a point of order. It is just impossible for someone on our side to get a question out.


Senator Gareth Evans —She just got one out. I heard every word.


Senator Hill —And it is impossible for anyone in the place to hear it also. Could I ask you, respectfully, Mr President, to tell this frontbench over here to shut up during questions so that everyone can hear them.


The PRESIDENT —Order! In reply to the point of order, there have been too many interjections from people on my right today. I would also like to point out that Senator Alston and Senator Macdonald constantly interject during question time. I am asking all honourable senators to cease interjections.


Senator BISHOP —The crux of the supplementary question is this: will Senator Schacht kindly supply the Senate with answers as to why the marginal Labor seat of Richmond got 11 grants totalling in excess of $160,000, and yet the claim by the Cromer Junior Football Club was denied any funding at all, despite the fact that Mrs Kelly said that it met the funding criteria?


Senator SCHACHT —Mr President, before you made a ruling, I noticed that, at the end of her question, Senator Bishop was talking about toilet blocks in the electorate of Mackellar. It must, I think, subconsciously reflect the level of the Liberal preselection campaign in Mackellar.


Senator Bishop —On a point of order, Mr President: this is a serious question. Senator Schacht's earlier attempt was pathetic. He did not bother to listen to what the grant was for for the Cromer Junior Football Club. He is not interested; he thinks it is a joke. I want to know, and the rest of Australia wants to know, why it is acceptable for Mrs Kelly to hand out taxpayers' money to buy votes and yet not meet a legitimate and approved grant that was asked for for junior footballers?


The PRESIDENT —In reply to the point of order, I think you have made your point.


Senator SCHACHT —As I said, I will refer the matter to Mrs Kelly. All I can say is that we will come back with this information. I look forward to giving it to Senator Bishop next Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday whether she is a winner, a loser or has drawn the preselection ballot in Mackellar. It will give us another chance to make some comments.