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Thursday, 9 December 2004
Page: 23

Senator FAULKNER (10:56 AM) —I welcome the opportunity to speak on the report of the Select Committee on the Scrafton Evidence. Senators would be aware that the `children overboard' issue has been a festering sore for the Howard government. It typifies the way the Howard government does business. I am pleased that the Scrafton committee has been able to fit some more of the pieces about the `children overboard' issue into place. We now have more knowledge about what the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, former Defence Minister Mr Reith and members of their staff at the time knew about the `children overboard' incident. We now know more about the government's deceit during the 2001 election campaign. We now know conclusively that the Prime Minister knew that the `children overboard' claims were false when he misled the Australian people at the National Press Club, just two days before the 2001 poll. We know more, as a result of the Senate Select Committee on the Scrafton Evidence, about the mendacity and deceit of the Howard government. We know more about the intimidation of public servants—public servants afraid to tell even internal inquiries about their knowledge of these events involving the Prime Minister and his staff both during and after the 2001 election. We saw again during the deliberations of the Scrafton committee how the government works.

When Mr Scrafton blew the whistle on the Prime Minister and the government, he was subjected to personal attack. That is standard operating procedure for the government. The main approach of the government was to attack the credibility and the motives of Mr Scrafton. It seemed to me—and I think it would have done to any reasonable person—that Mr Scrafton had no reason to make up his story; the only possible benefit he might have got from making these matters public was in some way to clear his conscience. But, before the Scrafton committee sat, phone records of the government somehow happened to find their way into the hands of Senator Brandis. That is another way that the Howard government does business. We do not know who provided those phone records. We do not know anything about their accuracy. The person or persons who provided those phone records could not be called to give evidence to the committee because Senator Brandis refused to identify who they were, so we could not test the evidence with them. We could not have the evidence in relation to those alleged phone records tested. But that did not seem to be of any concern at all to Senator Brandis. I have to admit that I like Senator Brandis.

Senator Jacinta Collins —No!

Senator FAULKNER —I do. I admire Senator Brandis for turning up to the committee. In fact, I would award him a gold medal for hide and effrontery for turning up to the Senate Select Committee on the Scrafton Evidence to question Mr Scrafton's motives and challenge Mr Scrafton's credibility. I would award Senator Brandis a gold medal for hide. I would award Senator Brandis that medal because of what he said about the Prime Minister, who was the other key player in this matter. It takes a special amount of barefaced hypocrisy to turn up at a committee hearing and accuse Mr Scrafton of being a liar. Senator Brandis did this at a time when the national newspapers in this country were full of `rodentgate'. We heard Senator Brandis's defence of `rodentgate'. He said, `I didn't call the Prime Minister a lying rodent.' Do you know what his defence was? He said he just called him `the rodent'. That was his defence: `I didn't call him a lying rodent. I just called him the rodent.' The use of the definite article was apparently very significant.

A couple of weekends ago I went into a pet shop, as I sometimes do. Our cat Bill has just celebrated his 105th birthday. In this pet shop I saw a sign marked `rodents' and featuring an arrow. It must have been some word association thing, but my mind immediately went—for some reason or other, on the weekend—to Senator Brandis. For some reason or other, I followed the sign. There in this pet shop was a cage. In the cage were two rodents. They were actually rats, but they were in the rodents section. There was one rodent on the bottom of the cage. You could say it was as still as a mouse—excuse the pun. It was quite still. I thought to myself, `Aha, a lying rodent.'

Senator Kemp —Madam Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. We are well used to the contributions of someone whose own colleagues refer to him as `Dr Frankenstein', but the use of quotations to impugn the reputation of a parliamentarian is not acceptable. Senator John Faulkner should be brought to order.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Crossin)—There is no point of order, Senator Kemp.

Senator FAULKNER —The cage had a perspex or glass front. The other rodent in it was in a wheel. I do not know whether or not you call these things `rat wheels'. It was running around and around in ever-decreasing circles, and it reminded me of Senator Brandis's parliamentary career after what occurred with the Scrafton committee and his comments about the Prime Minister. I thought it was a metaphor for the work of the Scrafton committee and Senator Brandis. Anyway, I do not know whether it was just word association, but even on the weekends I cannot get away from Senator Brandis and the work of the Scrafton committee. The clear message here is that a witness of credibility has exposed the Australian Prime Minister, Mr Howard, for what he is. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.