Wednesday, 19 September 2007
Questions without Notice
No, I was a soldier, and I did what I was ordered to do.
The minister’s chief of staff, Peter Phelps, then said:
Oh, like the guards at Belsen perhaps? Are you using the Nuremberg Defence?
Does the minister believe the words that were used are acceptable to be used by anyone in any circumstances, public or private? Given that the words were said by the minister’s chief of staff, does he endorse them; and, if he does not endorse them, what will he do about it?
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Mr Speaker, during what was by any measure an exceptionally serious question being asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, there were a series of interjections of a crude and quite unnecessary nature against which you took no action. Frankly, on an issue of this importance we are entitled to have those questions heard and determined by the House without that kind of behaviour on the government’s side.
As a member of the Speaker’s panel, the member for Denison ought to be well aware that he is reflecting on the chair. I was not aware of what he is referring to. But, before I call the minister, I would say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that I noticed in that question that she was being critical of the character of an individual which, under the standing orders and House of Representatives Practice, means the question should go on notice. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was also at one stage asking for an opinion. But, given that I understand the Special Minister of State will choose to answer the question, I call the Special Minister of State.
As I said in my earlier answer, I was not in attendance at that particular forum. My chief of staff did not attend that forum at any direction from me. He was not at that forum as my chief of staff. He attended as a citizen of Queanbeyan who had received an invitation to attend the forum. I cannot particularly comment on whether or not those words were said, because I was not there. However, clearly I would not agree with any comments that might compare the work of Australian soldiers with the work of those in Nazi Germany.