Since Parliament resumed last week, every single question asked by the
Opposition has dealt with the AWB.
Not that it’s got them far. The action has been happening in Sydney, at
the Cole Inquiry, not in Canberra. Labor is yet to land a convincing
blow on the floor of the House.
The Government isn’t looking good. The AWB’s single desk is under
threat. As Liberal backbencher Peter Slipper so clumsily admitted this morning,
the Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader Mark Vaile is under threat.
So is the Coalition.
But truth seems no defence. Slipper has been slapped down by former
minister and Nationals MP and Queensland party president Bruce Scott this
morning – and Labor learned a lesson on the subject in the Reps yesterday:
Mr BEAZLEY (2.21 pm)—My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister
and Minister for Trade. It follows the last answer that he gave to the member
for Griffith, in which he said that the
government assisted in every way the Volcker inquiry. Can the minister confirm that
the government’s Wheat Export Authority, whose job it is to scrutinise
Australian wheat contracts, did not provide any documents to the Volcker
Given that the minister failed to answer this question when he was asked
twice yesterday, surely he is able to answer it now.
Mr VAILE—As I said yesterday, when the Volcker inquiry came to Australia
the investigators spent two weeks at DFAT going through the documentation. We assisted
them and gave every bit of information that they had on this whole issue. That
was recognised by Volcker.
Mr Howard interjecting—
Mr Beazley—Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Of course it is
relevant, Prime Minister. The question was not about what DFAT gave; the
question was about the Wheat Export Authority.
The SPEAKER—The Deputy Prime Minister has only just begun his answer. He
is in order.
Mrs Irwin—Tell the truth!
The SPEAKER—Order! The member for Fowler will withdraw that.
Mrs Irwin—Mr Speaker, is telling the truth unparliamentary? This
minister should resign.
The SPEAKER—The member for Fowler is warned!
Mrs Irwin—This is the people’s parliament and he should be telling the
people’s parliament the truth.
The SPEAKER—The member for Fowler will remove herself from the House
under standing order 94(a).
The member for Fowler then left the chamber.
Mr Price—Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I notice that you have
asked the member for Fowler to withdraw. The remark that I heard her make was,
‘Tell the truth.’ I cannot see how asking someone to tell the truth is
The SPEAKER—As the Chief Opposition Whip would be aware, standing order 94(a)
applies to disorderly conduct. The member was displaying disorderly conduct in
defying the chair. That is why she was asked to withdraw.
Mr Price—Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have no difficulty
with that explanation. You asked her to withdraw her interjection—which I admit
was disorderly— that the minister should tell the truth. You asked her to
The SPEAKER—I have ruled on that
incident and I do not intend to revisit it. I call the Deputy Prime Minister.