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Wednesday, 30 October 1996
Page: 4784


Senator MURPHY(3.59 p.m.) —I think Senator O'Brien very clearly put it on the record with regard to the minister responsible for the work force. The minister approves the budgets for office fit-outs. Senator Newman made a claim that the cost associated with the fit-out of the extension of her office was associated with so-called stuff-ups. That is the issue.

You falsely made accusations against workers and against officers of a department. That is the issue at question here—as to whether or not a senator and a minister can come into this place and blatantly lay down claims, false claims, against people either from a department or from the private sector and get away with it because of the privileged protection she has in this place.

That is the question that must be answered. If the minister has any integrity at all, if she cannot prove the claims that she has made—and she cannot—then the minister should withdraw and should apologise to the people that she has made the claims against. She says no, she will not. She does not say that the claims are wrong. She says no, she will not withdraw, and no, she will not apologise, even though those claims are false.

That is the question. That is the reason this issue was raised. People have a right to protection. They have a right to have their integrity defended if it has been wrongly claimed that they have done something that they have not done. That is the question. Clearly, the minister has a responsibility and the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) also has a responsibility to say to the minister, if the minister has made false claims, which she has, that the minister ought to apologise and withdraw them.

Question resolved in the affirmative.