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Thursday, 10 October 1996
Page: 3920

Senator WATSON(3.14 p.m.) —Today we have had a very shameful and grubby attack by this disgusting opposition on one of our most dignified and distinguished members of the ministry. Therefore, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to rise in support of my colleague Senator Short.

Senator Short has an expertise that is not in the opposition and is second to none in the financial field. He has an outstanding record of achievement. It grieves me very much to hear the sorts of comments coming out of the mouths of such people as Senator Sherry and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Faulkner).

After 13 years of Labor's mismanagement, Australia desperately needs the expertise that Senator Short brings to this portfolio. What is your agenda? A grubby exercise to try to get rid of him. You have failed now and you will fail in the future.

Integrity and decency have been the hallmarks of Senator Short's whole career and his participation in this Senate. This expertise has been achieved over many years. He has applied remarkable intellect and assiduous hard work to one of the most difficult tasks that this country faces—it is facing it because of the neglect and mismanagement of the former government.

In his early years in the Treasury, he rose very quickly to senior responsibility. Between 1967 and 1970, he held the important position of Treasury representative in London, where he was held in very high regard for his competency and his integrity. Between 1971 and 1975, he held two high level positions: Assistant Secretary in the Overseas Economic Relations Division and Assistant Secretary in the Foreign Investment Division of Treasury.

To hear the rubbish coming from the opposition alleging incompetence just does not fit with the facts. Members of the opposition are not interested in the facts. They are not interested in the truth. They are trying to impugn things that are just not there. What we have heard today are long bows and minuscule perceptions leading to incorrect conclusions. The manner of the questioning was quite disgraceful.

On entering the federal parliament as the member for Ballarat, he immediately took up positions on the Joint Statutory Committee of Public Accounts. He was also a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. He discharged his responsibility with great dignity. Following his defeat in the election in 1980, he became General Manager, Corporate Affairs, of ACI International, a position which very suitably equipped him for service in the area of government.

During his time in the Senate, he has held a number of responsible positions where his informed contribution, especially in finance, has been of great benefit to this nation. That should be put on the public record. These include being the spokesman on finance and Deputy Leader of the Opposition. His outstanding ability to grasp the complexities of economic issues is an invaluable asset not just to the government but, I put to you, to the whole of Australia and all Australians.

It is indeed true that he has had a share portfolio, but what is the shame in that? He has acknowledged this and his record is on the register. The grubby manner in which they go through these registers to pick out long bows and inaccuracies and come to incorrect conclusions I think is disgraceful. He has held high-level positions in a large multinational company. Naturally, you would expect a man who has a considerable achievement to have built up some share portfolio interests.

It is noted that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sherry) has backtracked on his allegations of impropriety in this field, and so he should. I believe what he has put forward today is quite mischievous and the manner in which he has brought it to the press brings no honour or credit to Senator Sherry.

This morning the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Short) assured the Senate that he is not a share trader. That is the important point—he is not there to make money. After all, what would his interest in that portfolio have on one of the largest companies in Australia? It would be absolutely minuscule. We have to look at the materiality of events. When you start talking about materiality and people benefiting from the office, I ask you to look at the record of your previous Prime Minister. (Time expired)