SYDNEY WATER CONFERENCE TRAVEL
Mr HARTCHER: My question is addressed to the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning. Why did taxpayers have to foot the bill for a public
relations officer to take a two-week trip to California, when the cryptosporidium conference he attended lasted only three days? Was it so that he could enjoy, in the words of the conference brochure, "a full range of water sports, seaside activities, art museums, golf and tennis, as well as many diverse experiences"?
Mr KNOWLES: I have already answered the question. However, I will take the opportunity to remind the House that this matter has now been reheated today for the third time. It was first dealt with on 22 January. I think that says more about the Opposition’s research capabilities, its capacity as an Opposition and the quality of its staff than it says about any particular issue.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Georges River to order.
Mr KNOWLES: So far as I am concerned the Leader of the Opposition should be increasingly concerned about the quality of the research and the capacity of its staff, particularly some bloke called Jack Simos. The Leader of the Opposition would be concerned to know that officially from last Thursday his office now leaks. His leadership is under such threat, he is under such pressure, and he is under such challenge from the honourable member for Lane Cove that even he -
Mr Hartcher: On a point of order. You will always allow Ministers a degree of latitude when they commence to answer questions. That is usually in relation to the person who asks the question, not in relation to a letter that may have been written by some staffer outside of this Chamber. Accordingly, I ask you to invite the Minister for Urban Affairs and Planning to answer the question.
Mr KNOWLES: The Government has already made the details of all of those trips clear to the readers of both the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph and, indeed, they have been inquired into. If the Opposition chooses to reheat a story that has already been in the media twice since the beginning of this year, that is its prerogative. But the Opposition should be a little more worried about the competence of its own people. Last Thursday the Leader of the Opposition wrote a letter, under his own signature, to water companies suggesting -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order for the third time.
Mr O’Doherty: On a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the Leader of the Opposition continues to interject, I will direct the honourable member for Ku-ring-gai to resume his seat.
Mr O’Doherty: Standing Order 138 is clear; it requires the Minister’s answer to be relevant. The question was very specific; it was about a trip. It asked the Minister, in his capacity as Minister, to account for what happened on the trip. It had nothing to do with the staff of the Leader of the Opposition or any letter that was written by -
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No point of order is involved.
Mr KNOWLES: I might save the letter for another time. Suffice it to say that the Leader of the Opposition now knows that his office is leaking on behalf of the honourable member for Lane Cove because the Opposition is sick to death of the Leader of the Opposition. The Australian Water Technologies trips have been addressed in detail publicly on at least two occasions, and that is where the matter can rest.