Wednesday, 19 September 2007
Questions without Notice
I refer the minister to a community meeting last week in his seat which Labor candidate and decorated soldier Colonel Mike Kelly addressed. I refer the minister to a question posed by his chief of staff, Peter Phelps, to Colonel Mike Kelly asking if he compared his military service in Iraq to that of Nazi guards at the Belsen concentration camp. Does the minister endorse his chief of staff’s conduct and what will he do about it?
On a point of order, Mr Speaker: as to the point of principle, if you are saying now that ministers are not accountable to this parliament for their staff that is changing a very important fundamental principle of the accountability of this parliament as articulated previously by the Prime Minister.
The member for Fraser has made his point. I remind the member for Fraser that in the standing orders as applied to questions where the questions are derogatory statements or are critical of other people then they should be on notice. But the Special Minister of State has indicated that he is prepared to answer the question so I call the Special Minister of State.
I am aware that a former military lawyer who is standing for the seat of Eden-Monaro invited people from the public—in fact I got an invitation at home as well—to attend a forum. I think that it is only appropriate that individuals in their own private capacity, when invited to attend a forum, go along to that forum and participate in the debate.
Certainly Dr Phelps was there. He went along in his personal capacity and participated in debate at that forum, as I understand it and as passed on by my chief of staff the day after it occurred. As he was invited he decided he would attend and he participated in the debate.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to standing order 98(c)(ii) which requires that a minister can be questioned on the following matters for which he or she is responsible or officially connected, including—