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Wednesday, 12 October 1983
Page: 1638

Mr TUCKEY —Was the Prime Minister aware of any of the matters disclosed by me or those admitted in the House last night by the Minister for Finance when he transferred responsibility for the administration of the Australian Taxation Office from the Minister for Finance to the Treasurer on 28 June this year? Will the Prime Minister table the declaration of interest by the Minister for Finance to him made under cover of an undated letter and accompanied by a letter dated 26 July 1983 from Touche Ross and Co.? Is the Prime Minister satisfied that the return of pecuniary interest signed by the Minister for Finance on 20 September is satisfactory in every respect? In particular, is he satisfied with the Minister leaving eight questions unanswered in that return? Is he satisfied that the questions left blank represent a nil return in each case? Has he inquired whether these blanks are to avoid making a false declaration, as in the case of the Minister's wife's income which he failed to declare in his return of 20 September? How many declarations of interest has the Minister for Finance made to the Prime Minister--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I ask the honourable member to conclude his question. Because of the detail in the question, it really should be placed on notice. But I will allow the honourable member to finish his question.

Mr TUCKEY —To what extent--

Mr Peacock —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. We understand that there is a time limit for the asking of questions. But it has always been the practice in this House that there be a time limit; admittedly, more time is afforded to a Prime Minister than is generally afforded to other Ministers for the answering of questions. The reality is that despite the effluxion of time in the giving of answers which has been significant on the part of Ministers today, you have not intervened without the raising of a point of order. But you have intervened with regard to the honourable member for O'Connor without any member on the other side drawing it to your attention.

Mr SPEAKER —If the Leader of the Opposition reads Hansard, he will find that from time to time I have requested Ministers to round off their answers. I call the honourable member for O'Connor to complete his question.

Mr TUCKEY —Mr Speaker, I will resume at this point: How many declarations of interest has the Minister for Finance made to the Prime Minister and to what extent are they materially different?

Mr HAWKE —With regard to the first part of the lengthy question, as I recall it the transfer of ministerial responsibility took place on 1 July. The honourable member and the House will therefore see, as is the case, that there is absolutely no connection in any way between the change of ministerial responsibilities in respect of the Australian Taxation Office and any of the matters to which the honourable member subsequently referred in his question.

Mr Howard —Did you know?

Mr Peacock —Did you know at the time?

Mr HAWKE —No, I did not.

Mr Howard —You have answered the first part of the question.

Mr HAWKE —I think I have probably answered many parts of the question in giving that reply, as I was about to do. I say quite clearly that I repudiate unequivocally any implication in the series of questions by the honourable member for O'Connor that the Minister for Finance has in any way kept anything from me or from the House--

Mr Howard —Oh!

Mr HAWKE —The honourable member should let me finish-in the statement which has been published in the House which in any way goes to the point of the step which the Government has taken; that is, it should be quite clear that there is nothing in the private interests of members of this Ministry which could conflict with their public duties. I say quite clearly to the House and, through the House, to the people of this country, that I have total and unequivocal confidence in the Minister for Finance.

Mr Howard —Did you notice the round of applause that got from your own supporters?

Mr HAWKE —I understand that honourable members on the other side have been complaining about the time being wasted in Question Time. They are the greatest wasters of that time.

Mr Hurford —When are we going to have the Opposition's statements?

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Minister for Housing and Construction will observe the rules of the House. I call the Prime Minister.

Mr HAWKE —I repeat the confidence I have in the Minister. I have put it in unequivocal terms. I make this point with regard to the events of yesterday: The Minister did as he promised he would do to me and the House. He investigated fully the questions that were raised by a question in the House. He then made a full disclosure to the House. I suggest to all members of this House and the people of Australia that it is very strange that there should be any attempt by members of the Opposition to try in desperation to create some embarrassment for this Government on this issue, because we are the Government which put forward these matters publicly. If the Government or Ministers had anything to hide, of course we would not have taken the steps and the actions that we did. The matters are before the House. I repeat: In respect of the Minister, when the questions were raised he came forward in the House--

Mr Peacock —He misled the House.

Mr Howard —He misled it.

Mr HAWKE —I do not accept that he misled the House. It is to the credit of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that I understood him-I listened very carefully to him yesterday-to say, quite clearly, because I noted in my mind, 'full marks to you', that he did not allege any impropriety on the part of the Minister. He was absolutely correct in making that statement. It seemed to me that the only thing that emerged yesterday was that the Opposition suggested that in terms of some things the Minister had said in another capacity in this House last year in respect of Mr Reid, he had made observations in respect of Mr Reid which in the judgment of honourable members opposite did not sit well with his own position. I say two things in regard to that. Firstly--

Mr Howard —It would be to your credit if you agreed with that observation.

Mr HAWKE —The honourable member should let me finish and then he will hear exactly what I am going to say. I say two things about what was said: Firstly, it is to the Minister's credit, in my judgment, that he apologised in the House about what he had said in respect of Mr Reid. Secondly, two Sundays ago I had the opportunity of being for a period of two or three hours in the presence of Mr Reid and the Minister. I was together with both of them. It was perfectly obvious in that period of two or three hours that I was in the presence of the Minister for Finance and Mr Reid that as far as Mr Reid was concerned-I suppose, finally, he is the one who ought to be concerned about this, rather than those opposite from whom we hear the hypocritical bleatings-he was perfectly at ease with and reconciled totally with the Minister for Finance.