Senate debates

Tuesday, 20 March 2007


Ministerial Responsibility

10:00 pm

Photo of Santo SantoroSanto Santoro (Queensland, Liberal Party, Minister for Ageing) Share this | | Hansard source

I stand here tonight with a heavy heart to address an institution that I hold most dear. By now, honourable senators are well aware of my transgressions of Senate reporting requirements which have led to my resignation from the Howard government’s ministry and which I am taking this first opportunity to confirm in the appropriate forum. Last Friday I corrected the Register of Senators’ Interests to include several dozen omissions from my assets holdings which should have been included both prior to and during my time as Minister for Ageing.

I am now confident that the register accurately reflects all of my assets both leading up to and during my time as minister and that my current statement is utterly complete. I am also currently in the process of engaging an independent auditor to scour my and my family’s records over the years since my appointment to the Senate to ensure that I am able to assure the Senate of a complete historical record of our assets.

Tonight I want to deliver the following assurances: despite some of the more convoluted allegations to which I have recently been subject, I can proudly assert that I have at no time acted with dishonesty, deceit or deliberate intent to withhold information from the Senate. Further to this, I can assure honourable senators that I have at no time held assets which have provided a conflict of interest in my role either as a minister or as a senator. This question will be put before the independent auditor, and I trust it will satisfy the curiosity and fears of my fellow senators. Nonetheless, I am aware that my omissions, which are purely the product of poor attention to compliance, have let down the government, my party and the reputation of the Senate. Consequently, I wish to unreservedly apologise to the Senate.

I hope my colleagues here will come to recognise this episode as a tragic blemish on an otherwise careful and committed parliamentary career during which I have held both the parliaments in which I have served in the public interest, which they represent, in the highest esteem. I believe everyone here is aware that my regard for the institutions of this nation lies at the centre of my political beliefs, and I have sought since I first became involved in politics to serve and to honour them. In this case I have, through my own fault, failed that goal. Once again, I apologise for that failure.

I am also most distressed that my failure to comply with reporting requirements has represented a distraction from the achievements of the Howard government. I am glad to be able to say that I have served as a minister in this government and that I can also count the Prime Minister as one of my oldest and dearest friends. Nonetheless, it is part of the current political environment where scrutiny is applied in only one direction and where we have reached an unprecedented double standard that my continued presence here presents an excuse for that double standard to be played out in the nation’s papers on a daily basis. So I have advised the Prime Minister tonight, and I here wish to advise the Senate, that I will shortly resign from this august institution. I will make that advice formal at the close of this current two-week sittings, giving both the Queensland Liberal Party and the Queensland parliament time to appoint my replacement before the Commonwealth parliament again meets.

I began tonight by saying that I stand here with a heavy heart. I am pleased to say that one thing which has lightened my mood over recent days is the remarkable gift of friendship. I would like to pay tribute to my family, colleagues and staff who have supported me and encouraged me to fight on. It is their support and friendship which makes this choice so difficult and so necessary. I look forward to the next two weeks. I look forward to advising the parliament once the audit of my records is complete, and I look forward to the re-election of this government.