It intrigues me that Senator Brandis, in his comments on Monday, said that this was an area of law that he had specialised in. We know that the history of this Bell affair, if I can refer to it in that way, has dragged on for some 20 or so years—25 years, I think Senator Brandis mentioned today. As a lawyer specialising in this field of insolvency he appeared only to become really interested in how the resolution to the insolvency was going to take place. It was particularly on the visit by now Minister Porter that his interest seemed to have been sparked, not necessarily out of his profession. The question of the Commonwealth potentially losing out on revenue in the order of $300 million seemed not to have sparked his interest.

He also mentioned today—and I am not sure whether this was a matter that was a rearrangement of the facts or not—that his personal involvement first began on 3 March, although his office had been dealing with this matter prior to that time. I think he said today that they had been involved since January 2016, which is some two months earlier than the period he highlighted in his statement. It is curious that as an experienced minister he seems to have been comfortable with the fact that his staff did not pass on to him any information on this major legal and financial issue for months. It just intrigues me, whether this is a genuine case of some kind of Chinese Wall being erected between the minister and the staff so that later on, if the matter had gone the way it appears there was some intent to make it eventuate in the courts, the minister could say clearly that he did not know.

Surely, it seems that it is a clear principle that if your ministerial staff are informed of an issue then you are deemed to know about that issue. I note that the minister said that he would check on the paper trail in answer to questions from Senator Wong today. So maybe that matter could also be taken up, as to the dates.

I listened carefully to his explanation of Dr Nahan's statement, and I can see and understand why we in Western Australia become very frustrated with the way we are treated by the Commonwealth—particularly if the Western Australian ministers who were engaged in the discussion at the time took a different view. They took the view that there had been an agreement, as opposed to the view that we were told here in this chamber—that there was no agreement. Either they were very moronic or stupid, or incapable of understanding what was going on—and I doubt that is the case, given the competencies of the particular ministers involved. It is precisely this kind of attitude towards Western Australia that causes the parties that may normally be— (Time expired)

Question agreed to.

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