Tuesday, 19 June 2007
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Special Minister of State. Can the minister confirm that his chief of staff, Mr Peter Phelps, contacted the Electoral Commissioner on Wednesday after he became aware of the media interest in the Kirribilli fundraiser issue? Minister, having spoken to the commissioner, why did Mr Phelps then speak directly to Mr Kevin Bodel, the AEC’s director of funding and disclosure, rather than allowing the Electoral Commissioner to take responsibility for inquiries within the independent authority that he is in charge of? What instruction did Mr Phelps give Mr Bodel? On whose authority did Mr Phelps then brief the media on behalf of the AEC that ‘they have no official statement on Kirribilli’?
Obviously, the member for Bruce was not listening very well last night in the Main Committee when these matters were canvassed over a quarter of an hour. What occurred was pretty straightforward. A journalist indicated that the Australian Electoral Commission had made a statement that the Kirribilli function could be disclosable. We knew that the Electoral Commission had not requested any information and therefore could not make such a statement. Peter Phelps, on behalf of me, the Special Minister of State, simply contacted the Electoral Commission to determine what the Electoral Commission had actually said to the journalist. The Electoral Commission officer indicated that he had answered a question that was a hypothetical question not in relation to Kirribilli, and we ensured that the Electoral Commission knew that the media statement was going to be different.