Mar 1, 2007

Questions without notice (6) – Govt & Brian Burke, Noel Crichton-Browne

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE (6) – Government Dealings with Brian Burke or Noel Crichton-Browne

1 March 2007

Mr ALBANESE (3.01 p.m.)—My question is to the Prime Minister. I ask: will the Prime Minister rule out that any recent commercial dealings have occurred between any member of his government and Mr Brian Burke or Mr Noel Crichton-Brown?

Mr HOWARD—Speaking for myself, I can certainly rule them out. I am not aware that any members of my government have been involved in any commercial dealings. I will find out pretty quickly after question time. If that is wrong, I will find out very quickly. I want to thank the member for Grayndler. He has rendered meritorious service to the Liberal Party. I think he should get one of those long service awards. They were actually suggested by Ron Walker when he was the Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party.

Let us come back to what this is all about. This is, amongst other things, an attempt by the Australian Labor Party to draw an equivalence between the Exclusive Brethren collectively and somebody who is a convicted felon and who is under a ban so far as contact between him and members of the West Australian Labor Party is concerned. He is also somebody who, according to reports in the newspaper this morning, has been involved in an arrangement whereby the manipulation and the distortion of a parliamentary inquiry led to a company having to fork out $20 million in order to effect a court settlement. We are dealing here with serious corruption in Western Australia. This is an attempt by the Leader of the Opposition, and I say it is an attempt by the Leader of the Opposition because he has been talking to the member for Grayndler the whole time—

Mr Downer interjecting—

Mr HOWARD—There have been six questions asked of me by the member for Grayndler. The Leader of the Opposition has had his back turned the whole time. I do not know why he did not have the courage to get up and ask those questions of me. I mean, he is a man of great principles. The Treasurer and I have been prepared to confront him with his obligation to come clean to the Australian people about his consorting with Brian Burke in 2005, but he gets the member for Grayndler to ask a whole lot of questions. I am very happy to go on answering them because they do not really amount to a row of beans.

Mr Kelvin Thomson interjecting—

Mr HOWARD—The simple obligation that comes out of question time is for the Leader of the Opposition to do what he demanded of me. He demanded of me that I give chapter and verse of a perfectly legitimate telephone conversation conducted in the course of my duties as Prime Minister of Australia with a reputable businessman—a person who has given service to this nation as well as being successful in business—who was going into partnership in a business venture with a member of the board of the Reserve Bank of Australia, one of Australia’s most esteemed mining executives, Hugh Morgan, and Robert Champion de Crespigny, who has not only been successful in the mining industry but also been regarded as good enough by the Labor Party to have a seat at the cabinet table. That is how Mike Rann, the Labor Premier of South Australia, has described it.

It is part of my job to talk to people like this, but it is not part of the job—unless you are scrounging for votes—of a Labor Party federal backbencher to be going to the sorts of gatherings enumerated by the Treasurer with somebody who is a convicted felon, who is under a ban by Dr Gallop and who—according to what has come out of the CCC inquiry—was involved in what can only be called a swindle of the Xstrata company that involved that company having to pay some $20 million. I can only brand as pathetic the attempt by the member for Grayndler to say, ‘All of that is no worse than being a member of the Exclusive Brethren.’ That is pathetic, and I think the House has observed that all of these questions were asked by the member for Grayndler—none were asked of me by the Leader of the Opposition.