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Monday, 14 October 1996
Page: 4079

Senator ABETZ(3.25 p.m.) —Politics really is getting to a new low every question time, isn't it? We think the Labor opposition have hit the bottom of the barrel, yet somehow they manage to go a little bit further each day. If the Australian Labor Party genuinely want the Australian people to believe that these guidelines are the measure that they are now adopting, you have to ask the question: `Why didn't they adopt those guidelines whilst they were the government?'

Senator Bob Collins —We did.

Senator ABETZ —Senator Collins says, `We did.'

Senator Bob Collins —It is called the Cabinet Handbook , Senator.

Senator ABETZ —I am sure everybody up in the gallery will recall Carmen Lawrence, the member for Fremantle, who was found to have lied under oath and was allowed to keep her ministerial commission. `There is no sin in lying under oath; you can keep your ministerial commission'! It is not a problem according to the Labor Party, not a problem for those on the opposite side.   I can understand the gross discomfort that they are feeling and the need to interject and howl as they are doing, because they know that they enter this debate with a degree of duplicity not seen in this parliament for a long, long time.

We move on to Ros Kelly, the former member for Canberra. What a dynamo she was in the Labor ministry, caught out in a big way using taxpayers' money to try to bolster marginal seats, and allowed to continue and continue within the ministry of the Australian Labor Party.

We also had former senator Graham Richardson. The Australian Labor Party are very disingenuous in trying to enter this debate by making these sleazy assertions against honourable senators on this side who have never once, I submit to this Senate, acted in a way that could ever be suggested as being in conflict of interest. There may have been the perception that there is a big difference, but not a single person has suggested in this debate—not even those on the other side—that Senator Short did anything dishonest.

Senator Bob Collins —But you were putting an end to all this.

Senator ABETZ —But Carmen Lawrence was found to have lied.

Senator Bob Collins —Do you mean that nothing has changed?

Senator ABETZ —She lied under oath.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! There is much too much interjection on this south-west corner.

Senator ABETZ —She continued in the ministry. She deliberately did something wrong. She was found to have done something wrong and continued in the ministry. But because somebody has provided for their future by holding some shares—for retirement in Senator Gibson's case—that all of a sudden becomes a matter of great national concern.

One would have thought that we do not have an unemployment rate in this country, that there is no overseas debt in this country, that all our indigenous people have excellent health standards, because the Australian Labor Party are not concerned about the real issues facing ordinary Australians today. They are not concerned about those sorts of issues. They are concerned about getting into the gutter, getting into the sleaze of politics and trying to make some cheap political points.

I am reliably informed that the Labor Party, which, through Senator Collins's interjection, has adopted these principles as being the appropriate guidelines, had a parliamentary secretary by the name of Gary Johns who was in exactly the same position as Senator Gibson. Why was Gary Johns allowed to survive? No-one on the other side can answer that. They cannot answer it because they are absolutely caught out on that one. Senator Collins is hanging his head now. He ought not be holding it high because he has allowed us right into this debate by saying that they adopted those principles. If they adopted those principles, Gary Johns should have resigned. He did not.

Then there is the question of family holdings. You might like to have a look at those on your side who had shares in the Commonwealth Bank at the time of the privatisation, especially family members. You might be interested to find out that some of them were involved. When you do, you might like to ask them to resign their current opposition positions.