Mar 1, 2007

Questions without notice (2) – Mr Noel Crichton-Browne

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE (2) – Mr Noel Crichton-Browne

1 March 2007

Mr ALBANESE (2.32 p.m.)—My question is again to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that the Western Australian CCC inquiry was told on 21 February this year that former Liberal senator Noel Crichton-Browne continues to exert influence on the internal operations of the Western Australia Liberal Party at the highest levels? Can the Prime Minister provide the House with full details of contact between members of his government and former Liberal senator Noel Crichton-Browne in the period since Mr Crichton-Browne’s removal from the Liberal Senate ticket?

Mr HOWARD—I have a couple of observations. I was not aware that Noel Crichton-Browne had been sent to jail. Maybe something has escaped me. I am not aware that he has been sent to jail for fraud. As to contact between him and people on our side of the House, if you want to ask other ministers, you can go ahead and do so. But, speaking for myself, tomorrow being the 11th anniversary of the defeat of the Keating Labor government, I well remember the year that led up to that. I consumed, inside my own party, the first couple of months of that year in making sure that Noel Crichton-Browne was not on the Liberal Party Senate ticket for the election that brought my government to power. That involved taking him on. That involved going to Western Australia, not to consort with a convicted criminal. It meant going to Western Australia to make certain that my party’s Senate ticket did not have on it somebody I regarded as unsuitable. I was willing to do that as opposition leader because I regarded it as my obligation as the leader of the party. It involved some difficult confrontations with some people in the party. I have never regarded that man’s influence in the Western Australia division of my party as being anything other than rather negative.

But let us understand what this is all about. This is all about a double standard in the Australian Labor Party. I am meant to justify and explain to the last detail a telephone conversation I had, in the course of my duty as Prime Minister of Australia, with a very reputable business man. Ron Walker has never been convicted of fraud. Hugh Morgan has never been convicted of fraud. Robert Champion de Crespigny has never been convicted of fraud. The three of them represent exemplars of ethics and good behaviour in the Australian business community. Hugh Morgan is a member of the board of the Reserve Bank. Robert Champion de Crespigny is an advisor to the South Australian Labor government. Ron Walker is proudly a former honorary federal treasurer of the Liberal Party and is now the chairman of the Fairfax company.

What this is all about is a double standard. I am meant to explain every detail of that, the Treasurer is meant to explain every detail of that, but the Leader of the Opposition thinks that he can skate by with some kind of generalised answer at a news conference in relation to his contact with Brian Burke. Anybody who has any understanding of Australian politics would suspect that what the Leader of the Opposition was about was touting for preferment and favour from a man of influence in the Labor Party in Western Australia. That is what we are on about. The member for Grayndler can question me as often as he likes about the former senator from Western Australia. I will be very happy to go on answering in the vein that I have in the last two answers.