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Thursday, 10 October 1996
Page: 3924

Senator ABETZ(3.33 p.m.) —If you listened to the previous contribution you would have thought that Senator Ray, having been a senior minister under the former Prime Minister, Mr Keating, would have resigned in absolute disgust over the fact that his then Prime Minister failed to lodge his tax return not once, but twice. At least Senator Short pays his tax, Senator Ray. At least he puts in his tax returns, unlike the Prime Minister under whom you served so willingly. Do not come into this chamber pretending that you are outraged by some degree of morals that you have all of a sudden discovered within you.

The reality is that, when it comes to ministerial propriety, this government has the runs on the board. Senator Ray suggests to us that our Prime Minister (Mr Howard) is somehow responsible for this situation when their Prime Minister failed to lodge his tax returns. What absolute and utter contempt. Mr Keating was the Treasurer at the time that he failed to lodge his tax return. What a great example to the rest of Australia! What a fine example! To make it even better, when he became Prime Minister, not satisfied with failing to lodge his tax returns, he failed to disclose his interests in piggeries. We all know about that, don't we? We all know about the shameful episode that the then Prime Minister took ministerial propriety into on that occasion.

I now want to talk about the matters raised by Senator Sherry. He talked about this huge amount of money—$8,000. Let me say to those in the gallery that Senator Sherry earned five times that amount in one year from travel allowance. He earned $41,868 travel allowance, courtesy of the Australian taxpayer. I apologise: his travel allowance was $43,200. I got the figure wrong—it is even more. It was in relation to car hire that he sucked out $41,000-plus dollars from the Australian taxpayer. So, just in those two areas, Senator Sherry sucked out more than $84,000 from the taxpayer, yet he seeks to condemn a minister who has possibly overlooked $8,000—10 per cent of the amount that Senator Sherry is talking about.

We then had Senator Faulkner in here leading off the debate for the opposition. He was talking about standards and what a great success, by implication, he must have been as a minister. We all recall those embarrassing moments for Senator Faulkner when he was minister for the environment. In question time after question time he told us about ground truthing and that all these things were being done very well to ensure that the forest industry was being looked after. All that advice was based on none other than Natalie. Do you remember Senator Faulkner's red face, question time after question time, the humiliation of Senator Faulkner, question time after question time? In fact, we on the opposition side, at that stage, started to feel sorry for Senator Faulkner. For him to come in here and say that some other minister's ministerial performance is not quite up to scratch is really the pot calling the kettle black.

Senator Faulkner's contribution as a minister was really something that we on this side laughed at, the public laughed at and, ultimately—and this is the big thing—the Australian people laughed at. The people in regional Australia rejected the forestry agreement that Senator Faulkner hobbled together—because it was absolutely outrageous.

Senator Robert Ray tells us that we have a lazy Prime Minister. Our Prime Minister fronts up to every question time to answer the sorts of questions that he did today. Your former Prime Minister refused to come in day after day because he was too scared. He would roll up here at 11 o'clock in the morning. He was our part-time Prime Minister. So do not try to come that line that the Prime Minister is lazy. The standards set by this side are excellent. (Time expired)