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Matter probed

I WAS disappointed to read that the focus of Joe Poprzeczny’s article titled “Selective probe queried” (December 7-13) seemed to be based on a misunderstanding, rather than issues of substance regarding an inquiry into entitlement matters concerning Mr Kim Wilkie.

The misunderstanding was regrettable but did not affect the poor investigation of this matter. My office understood that a question on notice by Senator Eggleston had been withdrawn when in fact it hadn’t been.

The facts of the matter however are very straightforward.

A question on notice was tabled by Senator Eggleston on 22 June 2000.

Following this question a news article appeared in the Canberra Times (August 7) about the matter.

It was on this basis of the article that I wrote to Mr Wilkie on September 5 about the allegations that a staff member had been improperly working on party rather than parliamentary business.

Where a possible breach of entitlement is alleged I follow a standard, non-partisan process, which involves in the first instance writing to the senator or member concerned seeking an explanation.

On October 1 I received a reply from Mr Wilkie indicating he questioned his staff member about the allegations and was satisfied there was no contravention of any guidelines or determinations regarding the role of electoral staff.

As there was nothing to contradict this I accepted the explanation. This accords with the usual practice in these circumstances.

I reject any criticism that there had been any special treatment of Mr Wilkie in relation to this matter.

Mr Poprzeczny’s comparison between Wayne Swan and Mr Wilkie is ill informed. These matters are very different and do not warrant comparison for a number of reasons.

In the case of allegations of electoral offences concerning Mr Swan, it was the Australian Electoral Commission who referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions and ultimately to the Australian Federal Police for further investigation.

This course of action was pursued as part of their responsibility as an independent statutory body where a criminal breach of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 was alleged to have occurred. I played no part in this investigation or in the decision making process.

In the case of Mr Wilkie, the queries raised within my control and responsibility. As mentioned earlier I followed the usual practice, and my actions regarding Mr Wilkie were not influenced by Mr Poprzeczny as I had already written to him before Mr Poprzeczny had contacted my office for comment about the matter.

If Mr Poprzeczny has further information about this matter he should bring it to my attention.

Chris Ellison

Senator for WA

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