Thursday, 20 September 2018
Minister for Home Affairs
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Melbourne from moving—That this House has no confidence in the Minister for Home Affairs.
There's a golden rule in this place if you are a minister: tell the truth. Do not mislead the parliament. The parliament is there to hold ministers and the government to account. We might not like the answers they give. We might disagree with the decisions they've made. But, because ministers have enormous power that, in many instances, they exercise behind closed doors, we need them to be honest with us. So one of the most vital questions that we have to resolve now—and before question time, when all the ministers line up and give their answers—is: is any one of these ministers telling the truth? Can we have confidence in what they say?
What has become crystal clear is that you cannot trust what the Minister for Home Affairs says to this chamber. I asked him a simple question: did he know someone? Did he have a personal connection with someone? He stood up in this chamber, with full knowledge of who I was referring to, and said no. He not only said, 'I have no personal connection with that person;' he went on, of his own volition, to say, 'I did not know them.' But it is now crystal clear, and the Senate inquiry has confirmed this, when the minister told parliament he didn't know someone, he did. He did, and that throws everything into question, because now the minister's credibility is on the line.
The Prime Minister has laid down some very clear rules for ministers, and those rules say that you have to exercise your power with the sole objective of the public interest and you must not mislead the House. But what we have here is a minister who's about to get up in a couple of hours, which is why this is so urgent—a minister who, when he knows exactly who it is the question is about, is prepared to say to the House: 'No, I don't know them. I have no personal connection with them.' Then he goes on radio and says, 'They're a former colleague of mine.' Then he comes back later into the House and says that, yes, he did, in fact, know them. Then, not of his own volition, but because the Senate does its job and inquires into the decisions of the minister, several emails popped up. And one email popped up in response to a question from the opposition spokesperson in this House that says, 'Peter, long time between calls.' This comes from someone the minister said he didn't know.
What is also becoming crystal clear is that the department and the minister's office bent over backwards to help this person in a way that has not happened with anyone else, with the exception, perhaps, of another au pair. This person got special treatment. Why? The inference is clear: because they were known to the minister. So there are multiple parts of the ministerial standards that the minister has breached.
The Prime Minister has refused to take the action that's needed, which is to dismiss the minister. The minister has refused to resign. The best the minister has come up with is a Bill Clinton style defence where 'personal connection' apparently doesn't mean 'personal connection'. 'Knowing someone' apparently does not mean 'knowing someone'. He has been caught out, and that is why nothing could be more important than suspending standing orders to deal with this before question time.