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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11248

Mr RIPOLL (2:48 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation representing the Special Minister of State. Why is the conduct of members and senators crucial to maintaining the integrity of Australia’s electoral process? What approaches may undermine this?

Mr TANNER (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —I thank the member for Oxley for his question. Yesterday the Minister for Infrastructure Transport, Regional Development and Local Government outlined to the House an email that was sent out by Senator Ronaldson’s staff member and disseminated by the Leader of the Opposition’s office, I understand, advising members of the Liberal Party to forget about policy and go for ‘quirky’ stories that relied on reinforcing stereotypes of fat cats and other targets for the Liberal Party. This kind of approach undermines the integrity of the electoral process, but sadly this is not an isolated instance.

I have an interesting document here. The Leader of the Opposition will be pleased to know that it is not an email. The document is entitled A selective political analysis of the federal electorate of Ballarat and is by one Edmund Carew. It is very interesting because it contains detailed profiles—including some unflattering references to them—of local identities including local councillors. It is interesting that the then member for Ballarat now Senator Ronaldson had been member for Ballarat for five years but he still had to get a researcher to give him profiles of his local councillors. That tells you something.

In this dossier, there is a four-page detailed profile of the then Labor candidate for Ballarat, Jenny Beacham. It contains some very interesting material including the names and occupations of her children, details of a recent death in the family of a close family member from serious illness, details from company searches of her business and other business activities, the names and addresses of directors of those companies, indications of how well business was doing and other such detailed personal information. It also has some rather interesting statements. For example, it quoted a statement from a newspaper in 1984—more 10 years earlier—from Ms Beacham supporting the concept of redistribution. Then the report says to the Liberal Party and to now Senator Ronaldson, ‘A comment that we should use if the scare of death or wealth taxes can be given a run.’ It also notes that in response to a suggestion that Ms Beacham had organised a letter-writing campaign about something seven years earlier, ‘If Beacham accuses us of a campaign, we can dredge this one up.’ Appropriate language.

But the most heinous crime that the former Labor candidate Jenny Beacham is accused of in this dossier is that when she visited South Africa during the first elections post apartheid she had lunch with Nelson Mandela. That tells you an awful lot about the Liberal Party. This is truly creepy stuff. But unfortunately it is part of a pattern. This was in 1994. I had been in this parliament one year. Gary Ablett senior was playing in the grand final for Geelong—that is how long ago it was. Shane Warne was about to take a hat-trick against the Poms in the Boxing Day test.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. For that question to have been in order it had to have been about public affairs or administrational proceedings in the House and presumably the answer would have to be relevant to an in-order question. The material that is being used in no way relates to those issues and therefore is not relevant to a properly asked question, and I ask you to ask him to desist making public things which are obviously meant to be of a private nature.

The SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order. The question was in order. The minister is responding to the question.

Mr TANNER —I have just been advised that the member for Mackellar is unopposed in her preselection to run around the track again. We can now see why. In fact, at the time I am referring to she was on the verge of becoming leader of the Liberal Party. There is a very important contemporary point here. The person involved in this dossier is the now Senator Ronaldson. He was then the member for Ballarat. He was then a relatively obscure junior frontbencher. He is now right at the very centre, right at the very heart, of the Turnbull leadership of the Liberal Party. He is the new Bill Heffernan. He is the hit man, the dirt man and the numbers man for the Leader of the Opposition. He is not some mad uncle, he is not the member for Mackellar; he is right at the heart of the team. This is a longstanding continuing pattern of skulduggery, spivery, scares and smears and it tells you everything about what the Liberal Party is.