House debates

Thursday, 8 September 2022


Ministerial Conduct

2:47 pm

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians) Share this | Hansard source

I second the motion. Labor has no integrity on integrity. Ministers have breached the ministerial code left, right and centre. Three ministers are selling shares at a rate that would make Gordon Gekko proud! This is from a government that spent nine years on this side of the House lecturing us on integrity. Every question time they lectured us on integrity.

The new Prime Minister promised that there would be a new era of government, a new era of integrity, a new era of transparency, and what did he show us? He produced a ministerial code that, in just over 100 days, has been breached by three ministers, three ministers who've had to sell their shares. The Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories has admitted to breaching the code. The Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care has invested in shares in areas that are regulated by her portfolio. And today we have revelations that the Attorney-General's superannuation fund invests in funds that invest in a prominent litigation fund, a litigation fund that is benefiting from a decision of this government, a Friday afternoon special decision of this government, made to appease and support one of the Labor Party's big donors.

The Labor Party have three big donors: big unions, big super and big class-action funders. They have made their first priorities in government to do things to benefit these three organisations, whether it be the nobbling of the ABCC, whether it be the changes to make superannuation funds less transparent or whether it be to make litigation funds less transparent and less of benefit to those people who are the victims, who brought these actions forward in the first place. Labor has no integrity on integrity.

Let's hear what the Prime Minister has been saying about the importance of his code. He said:

As Prime Minister, I expect my Ministers to demonstrate that they are complying with these high standards of conduct, and in doing so, living up to the expectations of the Australian public.

On the day his code was released, the Prime Minister told Sunrise: 'I want politics to be cleaned up. We've got strict adherence to the code of conduct.' But what's the Prime Minister actually done? What have we seen? We've seen three ministers breach this code of conduct in just over 100 days. This is the transparent Labor Party! This is the new politics that the Labor Party promised they would deliver when they came to government. That was only two months ago, and what have we seen? You can breach the code with impunity. There is absolutely no consequence for breaching this code. And what happens when you get caught? The Prime Minister will look after you, the Labor Party will look after you; there's no real standard that any minister is being held to at all. With the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories, we found out they don't even have to read the code. The code is there and it can be breached with absolute impunity again and again.

That's why the motion that the Leader of the Opposition has moved is so important. It's why it deserves to be debated properly in this House. It deserves to be debated because you cannot have the situation where a ministerial code has been put forward by a new Prime Minister who has promised new transparency in government and who, instead, has demonstrated that there isn't any real transparency because there is no consequence for breaching his ministerial code, a code that is designed to lift transparency.

Mr Speaker, you have the Attorney-General here talking about the code and the fact there were several elements to the code that were worth looking at. It's worth looking at paragraph 3.11 again, and it says:

In recognition of the collective responsibility that Ministers bear in relation to Cabinet decisions, this Code requires that Ministers divest themselves of investments and other interests in any public or private company or business, other than public superannuation funds or publicly listed managed funds or trust arrangements where:

(i) the investments are broadly diversified and the Minister has no influence over investment decisions of the fund or trust; and—

and this is the important bit—

(ii) the fund or trust does not invest to any significant extent in a business sector that could give rise to a conflict of interest with the Minister's public duty.

What did we see here? We saw a minister with a serious conflict of interest investing in a fund that benefited from a decision that had been made by this new government. Mr Speaker, this motion deserves to be supported, and we should have the full motion brought forward. (Time expired)


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