House debates

Thursday, 20 September 2018


Minister for Home Affairs

12:01 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Opposition Business (House)) Share this | Hansard source

The opposition will be supporting the motion that's been moved by the member for Melbourne. I think everybody now knows after that recent speech that, if you're ever in trouble, there's one person you don't want to be charged with defending you, and that's the Leader of the House. That was extraordinary. He claimed there was urgent business that the House had to deal with and then said, 'Can someone please hand me a copy of it?' because he had no idea what it was. I've got to say that, if this government ever wanted to argue that there was urgent business before the House, they lost the right to do that the day they shut down the parliament. They shut down the parliament because of the person they're now in here defending—at his request, we were told.

There will be lots of arguments that go back and forth in this House about the Minister for Home Affairs, but today we deal with one issue, which is that ministers must not mislead the parliament. That's it. The Leader of the House says, 'But what evidence has Labor provided?' Well there are two things here: first, is that an important principle, and, second, did the Minister for Home Affairs breach it? Is it an important principle? It's listed in the Practice as one of the reasons a minister would have to resign. It was stated in 2015—more extreme language than I'd probably use—and I quote, 'If you mislead parliament, that's a cardinal sin.' That was said by the Minister for Home Affairs in a radio interview. That's his view on how serious this is.

Let's work out whether or not that has happened. There's one question here: did the minister tell the truth to the parliament? He was asked a question by the member for Melbourne, and that's why it's appropriate that it's the member for Melbourne bringing the issue to the House today. The question he was asked was this:

Can you categorically rule out any personal connection or any other relationship between you and the intended employer of either of the au pairs?

In his answer, the Minister for Home Affairs said:

The answer is yes.

And then added something even stronger than what the question said. He said:

I don't know these people.

He said that back on 27 March. Was he telling the truth when he said that? To answer the question as to whether or not that was a true statement, let's not go to my words or my evidence; let's go to what the Minister for Home Affairs said later about the same matter. On 3 September he was asked in a press conference in Brisbane:

Minister Dutton do you now concede that you knew the man from the police force, who you assisted with the visa for the au pair?

To which he said, 'I've never denied that'. I reckon 'I don't know these people' is a denial that you knew them. The claim that he has never denied it was made by the Minister for Home Affairs. The statement that he denied that he knew them was made by the Minister for Home Affairs right there at that dispatch box in March in answer to a question from the member for Melbourne.

Never once, in all the issues that the Leader of the House just danced around, watching the clock as he went—it was as though the member for Higgins was making a speech; the clock was being watched for the entirety of the speech as the Leader of the House gave that answer—did he deal with the issue as to whether or not the minister had misled the House, because we all know he had. You don't need the Labor Party to tell you that, you don't need a Senate inquiry to tell you that, because the Minister for Home Affairs has told us that. He answered a question in the House and said, 'I don't know these people,' then when asked in a doorstop interview whether or not he knew those people, he said, 'Well, I've never denied that.' He did. He denied it.

You will often get accusations about whether or not a minister has misled the House. You will never get one as open and shut as what is in front of us today. Of all the evidence that you get misled on, you rarely get the minister himself or herself saying, 'I've never denied that,' when the denial is what was stated in the parliament. (Time expired)


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