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Monday, 7 February 1994
Page: 428

Senator TIERNEY —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories. I refer to the disgraceful sports rorts affair and ask: if Mrs Kelly handed all relevant documents to the Auditor-General by 7 June 1993, why did her department seek advice from the Attorney-General's Department three days later on whether she had the right to withhold documents?

Senator RICHARDSON —In terms of what information Mrs Kelly was seeking, it is relevant to look at the Auditor's power to ask questions of her office as part of auditing the department. That, as I understand it, is a matter of record. She has spoken about it on quite a number of occasions. As far as I know, there was never any attempt not to hand over all relevant documents, and all relevant documents were handed over. There was, however, a question asked of the Attorney-General about the Auditor's power in relation to asking questions of Mrs Kelly and her staff. I do not think there is any need for Mrs Kelly to apologise for that. I would certainly support her in that. That was the tenor of the comments I made this morning, to which Senator Hill referred earlier.

  I think the critical thing to note about what has come out today is that that request for advice was made on 10 June and it was intended to relate to the power of the Auditor to ask questions. That version of events is confirmed—it is interesting to note Mr Costello did not release the documents to the public even though they were in his possession—in an annotation on advice by the Attorney-General's Department. That was done by the head of the environment department's legal section and was also in a minute prepared by the then Assistant Secretary, Kaye Dal Bon, on 15 June. In her note Ms Dal Bon says, `Unfortunately Mr Rollinson asked the wrong question. We are aware of the powers of the ANAO to demand access to records, the issue is his powers to command information by way of questions'.

  Mrs Kelly has given an answer in her press release today to the latest allegation by Mr Costello—to which the honourable senator has obliquely referred, although not giving him credit. It is also well and truly answered by what I have just said.

Senator TIERNEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. It was very convenient for the minister to say that it was all a misunderstanding and there was a communication breakdown, but I do not think people on this side accept that. We think this minister should resign. Why did the Prime Minister accept the resignation of former minister Griffiths over allegations involving the misuse of a few thousand dollars for Sandwichgate and yet has not demanded the resignation of the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories, Ros Kelly, over alleged misdirection of tens of millions of dollars in the sports rorts affair?

Senator RICHARDSON —I certainly would not presume to answer for the Prime Minister. No less a personage than Senator Gareth Evans sits in this chamber for that purpose.