The strange case of Question 48

Yesterday I quoted an unanswered Question In Writing posed in the House of Representatives to John Howard on November 17, 2004 - the second sitting day of the current (and soon-to-be-ex) parliament. The question relates to Government expenditure on corporate boxes at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where Howard and ministers wined, dined and occasionally watched the action as, among other things, Marion Jones cheated her way to victory after victory.

The history of Question 48 goes back much further than this. It previously saw life as Question 101 of the previous Parliament, dated 13 February 2002 (see the notice paper of 3 August 2004). But that was only re-wording of a question posed during the life of the previous parliament:

16 August 2000

1819. MR M. J. FERGUSON: To ask the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Sydney 2000 Games —

(1) Further to the answer to question No. 681 (Hansard, 1 September 1999, page 9723), have the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Austrade finalised criteria for the distribution of tickets available to the Government for use at the Sydney Olympic Games; if so, what are the criteria.

(2) Has the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet received a license agreement for the SuperDome box as yet and what is the basis of the agreement.

(3) In addition to the $850 000 for the cost of tickets to the Olympics for use by Government, the $240 000 for use of a 20-seat box at Stadium Australia, and the $120 000 for an 18-seat box at the Super Dome, what is the estimate and breakdown of other costs to be incurred by the Prime Minister and other Ministers when entertaining guests during the Olympic Games.

(Source: Notice paper, 24.9.01>

The aforementioned Question 681 from 1999 can be seen, together with answers, here.

If Question 48 is not answered before the federal election is called, then it will have lapsed for the third time, having remained unanswered for seven years.

Why won't the Prime Minister answer the question?