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Monday, 14 October 1996
Page: 4078


Senator SHERRY (Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate)(3.20 p.m.) —Senator Hill totally misses the point in this debate. He missed the point three or four days ago when he referred to these breaches of the ministerial guidelines as `technicalities' and as a `side issue'. We have seen how much of a technicality and a side issue it has been since Senator Short announced his resignation yesterday.

Let me return to the press release of the Treasurer (Mr Costello) of March this year when he outlined the responsibilities of the previous Assistant Treasurer (Senator Short) and the duties of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer (Senator Gibson). I hope Senator Gibson will participate in this debate today to indicate to us why he will sell his shares and what he will do with the proceeds.

It was very clear that Senator Short had responsibility for administrative matters relating to the banking laws and a range of matters on insurance and superannuation. What did Senator Short hold? Thousands of shares in the ANZ bank—it was very clear. Senator Hill is right, it was on the record. As an opposition, when we were checking the record, we were rather amazed that Senator Short continued to hold shares in a banking stock and, at the same time, have responsibility for the development of administrative matters in the banking sector and insurance and superannuation.

When we checked this record, we looked at Senator Gibson. Let us look at Senator Gibson's responsibilities—point 2 under this press release, `Design of laws in relation to cheques and bills of exchange'—and then at Senator Gibson's share portfolio. The portfolio is quite extensive. The important area there is the case of NAB, 5,000 shares, and the case of the Bank of Melbourne, 2,300 shares. He has some direct responsibilities relating to banking and a very important and controversial issue, the issue of the clearing house for cheques, and he holds bank shares.

There is a direct conflict of interest. Let us look at this document A Guide on Key Elements of Ministerial Responsibility of the Prime Minister, Mr Howard—not a Labor document, a document laid down by your government when you were elected to government, promising integrity. This is your document, your promise, which the Prime Minister is failing to uphold.

Specifically, I challenge Parliamentary Secretary Gibson to participate in this debate. He has the opportunity here now to get up and tell the Senate why he is not in conflict with these guidelines, why he has maintained this share ownership for the last six months.

He is nodding his head. He obviously does not want to explain to the Senate about this conflict of interest. He can also tell us what he is going to do with the profit from these shares. Senator Short said the $9,000-odd profit would be going to charity. Fine. Is Senator Gibson going to do the same thing? I hope he gets up and outlines that, because Senator Gibson's holding in NAB—as I informed the Senate during question time—has moved from $58,150 to $67,650. That is an increase of $9,500 in the last six months.


Senator Panizza —What about the rest of the shares. Go through the whole lot.


Senator SHERRY —In the Bank of Melbourne—$16,675 to $19,320, or $2,645. Now that is a total profit of $12,145 in just six months. `A nice little earner' as Arthur Daley would say, Senator Gibson. What about the battlers out in Lindsay? They would love this nice little earner—$12,145 in just six months.

This highlights the connection between this government, their two chief economic ministers, the former Assistant Treasurer, Senator Short, and Senator Gibson, and their connection with the banks in direct contravention of these ministerial guidelines. It also highlights the nice little profit, donated to charity in Senator Short's case. I hope in Senator Gibson's case it will be donated to charity as well. They have been sitting on a nice little profit for the last six months. The parliamentary secretary and the former Assistant Treasurer were the only two senators who sat in this place in direct contravention—if you check the shareholdings—of the ministerial guidelines laid by down by Mr Howard.