House debates

Thursday, 8 September 2022


Ministerial Conduct

2:52 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | Hansard source

We never did it on anything as silly as this one. What they are going for here is on the concept: 'Well, the big thing we need to have happen is to seek advice from the Secretary to PM&C.' Remember the Gaetjens reports? Remember how many times we were told by those opposite, the answer to every question: 'Phil Gaetjens is looking into it.' I remember hearing about the Gaetjens reports. I don't remember seeing the Gaetjens reports. I don't remember a single one of those reports ever seeing the light of day.

But it wasn't only on shares that those opposite had issues of integrity. Remember when respected Speaker Tony Smith was in that chair and was asked about a former Leader of the House who had set up a trust fund, and the impact of that trust fund to pay for his personal expenses, his personal bills, was being used on the declaration. All the questions they have asked this week have been based on going through the declaration, where ministers have been transparent. That's where all of this information has come from—because ministers have been transparent.

What did the former Leader of the House's declaration tell you? There was a trust fund and you weren't allowed to know where the money was coming from. That was referred to the privileges committee in a reference that was made and then the Speaker had to consider whether or not it would be given precedence to even be looked at. For as long as I have been here and for as long as the Prime Minister has been here, when precedence is given the House then votes in favour of it. But, breaking that precedent, in a complete cover-up to forever conceal the financial interests of one of their own, they came in here to vote that reference down. And who do you think was the Leader of the House who called the division? Who do you think was the Leader of the House who said, 'We should never have a right to know where the money is coming from'? Who might be that person who stood right here and argued that the government would not be supporting the reference—and the culture of secrecy wouldn't just continue but that every single one of them would vote against the recommendation of the Speaker and make sure that the information was forever suppressed? Any ideas on who? I know you are all looking at your phones, but it was the now Leader of the Opposition who came in here and led the charge to make sure that the Register of Members' Interests was effectively rendered meaningless by one of his own receiving money that we will never know the origin of.

Compare that with an incoming government where the Prime Minister has come forward with a code of conduct that those opposite never would have dared do. If any Prime Minister from their side had dared bring in a code of conduct where you were expected to get rid of your shares, they would have knocked off the Prime Minister in seconds. That's what they would have done, because it goes completely against the grain of how they operate. It goes completely against the grain of born to rule, born to invest, born to entitlement—

Government members interjecting

And born to rort; that's right. It goes against the grain for every single one of them. What they are now doing is complaining and wanting to argue about a code of conduct which contains some of the principles that were there when we were last in government—all of which they got rid of as soon as they came in. They made sure that none of these principles around protecting the public interest and avoiding conflicts of interest were applied to them at all. On the occasion when one of their own was so openly flouting it that the Speaker recommended it be given precedence for the privileges committee, each and every one of them voted to shut the inquiry down. And now that the government has re-established proper standards of integrity, proper standards to avoid conflicts of interest, proper standards that make sure ministers are not caught in the sort of behaviour that those opposite were involved with, what do they do? They decide that that's their big issue.

I have laughed this week thinking about the conversations that they must have had as to who should ask about a breach of the ministerial code. Do we have the person who had to resign over Queensland trips? Do we have the question relevant to the motion we now have in front of us asked by the person who somehow magically uploaded fraudulent documents about the Lord Mayor of Sydney?

Do we have the question asked by someone who took an overseas trip to China in a private capacity, who suddenly appeared as a minister doing private work? Do we have people involved in water sales and water purchases? Do we have—

Government members interjecting

And I haven't even mentioned the Leppington Triangle! I haven't mentioned that, but after this point of order I'll—


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