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Wednesday, 12 October 1983
Page: 1641

Mr PEACOCK —My question is addressed to the Minister for Finance and it follows the Prime Minister's answer to a question asked by the honourable member for O' Connor wherein the Prime Minister said that the Minister for Finance did not mislead the House yesterday. I remind the Minister that he was asked whether he had been involved in any way with bottom of the harbour tax transactions. He replied, and I quote from page 1535 of Hansard:

I suppose I have been involved to one extent; that is, to introduce into this House legislation which would recoup the money which was stolen from the Australian taxpayers by, amongst others, members influential in the Western Australian branch of the Liberal Party. As far as my personal conduct is concerned, absolutely no.

How could the Minister have given such an absolute denial in view of the fact that Coomel Pty Ltd had held the relevant shares for three of the five years the Minister had been a director and had a legal responsibility for the accuracy of its annual returns?

Mr DAWKINS —This is becoming rather like a sick joke. I indicated--

Mr Howard —This is the humble apology!

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I warn the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

Mr DAWKINS —I want to know who is alleging that I have misled the House. I am also keen to know who is alleging that I was involved in bottom of the harbour activities. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not alleging that. He has indicated that he is not. Last night I said that I accepted my responsibilities when I was briefly a director of the company. I accepted full responsibility for the fact that the company sold the shares in Metro Industries Ltd, when they were at their lowest price ever, at a loss.

Mr Lusher —On a Sunday?

Mr DAWKINS —What the Opposition is trying--

Mr Lusher —On a holiday?

Mr SPEAKER —I warn the honourable member for Hume.

Mr Lusher —The first of January-a public holiday?

Mr SPEAKER —I name the honourable member for Hume. The honourable member for Hume knows that a general warning has been given. I warned him. He defied that warning. I name him.

Motion (by Mr Beazley) proposed:

That the honourable member for Hume be suspended from the service of the House.

Mr Peacock —Mr Speaker, before the honourable member--

Mr SPEAKER —I will hear the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Peacock —Mr Speaker, those remarks were made virtually at the same time. You had only just completed your warning when the honourable member spoke. I ask you to give him the opportunity to withdraw the remark and perhaps the Minister will withdraw the motion.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I have listened to the Leader of the Opposition. It was quite clear that I warned the honourable member for Hume and that despite that warning he continued to interject. On a previous occasion I indicated that if that type of withdrawal was allowed the Chair no longer had any power in its hands to ensure behaviour.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I wish to speak to the motion. Could I suggest, with all respect, that part of the difficulty that has arisen is the very sharp difference in approach which is being taken on this matter by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Finance. I think it would be accepted that during the Prime Minister's speech he sought to convey the impression that this gentleman is entirely--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! This is irrelevant.

Mr Howard —It is entirely relevant.

Mr SPEAKER —The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The question is that the motion be agreed to. All those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it. The honourable member for Hume is suspended from the service of the House for 24 hours.

Mr Hurford —Did the Opposition call for a division?

Mr Peacock —We did, but he said no.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! In that case, I apologise to the Opposition. I did not understand that it called for a division. If it requires a division, the House will divide. Ring the bells.

Question put:

That the honourable member for Hume be suspended from the service of the House.