Wednesday, 5 June 2013
I seek leave to move a motion, directing the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship to seek a report from the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security on the circumstances surrounding the detention of the convicted Egyptian jihadist terrorist.
Leave not granted.
That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Denison moving the following motion forthwith:
That the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security be directed by the Minister to report by 20 June 2013 on the following:
(1) to establish all facts in relation to allegations that a convicted Egyptian jihadist terrorist was in a detention centre in full knowledge of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, without passing this information to the Minister; and
(2) whether processes and/or resources need to change to address any issues raised, and if so, in detail, to recommend where.
I will just speak briefly to this effort to suspend standing orders and to bring this motion on. I think everyone in this House would agree that the possibility that a convicted Egyptian jihadist terrorist was improperly processed and/or improperly held in detention is a cause for very serious concern. I would hope that every person in this place would agree that it is important that someone or some body get to the bottom of it, ensure that any errors are corrected and that this sort of thing does not happen again. That would certainly be in line with the public's expectations.
I note that the Prime Minister has announced today that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security will look into these matters. I have the utmost respect for the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and I do not doubt that officer's competency and independence, but I really think this is a matter for the parliament to consider. We have in the parliament a very capable and well-regarded body to look into these matters—that is, the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security. The PJCIS is a highly regarded body; it is populated with well-regarded members of the parliament and with, I think I can say with some confidence, members of parliament who have a high standing in the community—with the possible exception of me. Crucially, it is a competent organisation and well regarded and familiar with security matters. It is the one parliamentary committee which has the competency and the skills and familiarity with the intelligence community, and which could ramp up and undertake an inquiry very quickly. Crucially, the PJCIS also has a track record of working cooperatively—of achieving consensus wherever consensus can possibly be found and making recommendations that would have the support of the whole parliament and, I think, the confidence of the whole community.
I ask the parliament to support my attempt to suspend standing orders and to bring this motion on for a decision.
Under standing order 132(b) I believe that through misadventure at least one member missed the division, and therefore I move:
That in accordance with standing order 132, standing and sessional orders be suspended to enable the House to divide again on the question: That the suspension of standing and sessional orders be agreed to.
During the timing of the division, the four-minute spell, one of the opposition's members, the member for Flinders, was seen very clearly at the glass doors of the chamber. He was seconds away from voting. The reason why standing order 132(b) is in the standing orders is so that, if a vote could have been materially affected in a different direction by a member not being able to be present, the vote can be recommitted. In a parliament such as this, there are two members who were not present, Leader of the House, who may have wanted to vote, one of whom we know was standing outside the glass doors—the member for Flinders. The other was the member for Fisher, who did not vote. He did vote in a previous division and he should be given the opportunity to come into the House and vote.
There was great confusion, given the member for Denison moved the motion and many members of the House—I would say a good 142—probably did not know that that motion was going to be about the suspension of standing orders to refer this matter, the matter of the holding of a jihadist terrorist in a detention centre in the Adelaide Hills, to the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence. It was a very good motion of the member for Denison. The opposition supports it. We believe that national security is one of the most important requirements of a government to get right. We saw in question time today, and have seen all week, that ministers have failed to take responsibility for the fact that a convicted jihadist terrorist was held in detention in the Adelaide Hills behind a pool fence. So we support the member for Denison's motion and I believe the member for Flinders would have supported it. That would have meant 75 votes would have been on the side of the House to achieve the suspension of standing orders—and one other member, the member for Fisher, did not come into the House.
I will not delay the House any longer. Standing order 132(b) exists so that, if there is a misadventure and a member is not entitled to come in and vote because they were inconvenienced for whatever reason, the House be given the opportunity to vote again. I put it to the House that this is such an occasion and that therefore the House should vote on it.
What an extraordinarily short memory the member for Sturt has got. During the last sitting week of this parliament there was a genuine misadventure where people put their hand up, stated why they had missed the division and put it on the record—as was provided for when we negotiated the changes to standing orders at the beginning of the 43rd Parliament—and the Manager of Opposition Business opposed it. He opposed it and made this side of the House get an absolute majority in order to allow the recommittal of that vote. You cannot have it both ways. The member for Flinders has finally made it into the chamber.
Opposition members interjecting—
The fact is this: the opposition was two votes short of a majority. If it is the case that two members come in here, give an explanation and say they wish to vote, and there was a change, therefore, in the outcome as a result of misadventure, I will support the Manager of Opposition Business's motion. That is what we determined collectively—government, opposition and crossbenchers—after the last parliament.
I will not play the games that the member for Sturt played during the last sitting week. But if you want an example of playing absurd politics with national security, it is this. The Manager of Opposition Business should also know—he might not, but he should—that the suspension of standing orders, if it were carried, and if the motion were moved by the member for Denison, would be out of order. Because you cannot have an inquiry into specific national security matters concerning individuals by this committee. It is expressly outlawed by the standing orders—by House of Representatives Practice. I say to the crossbenchers: have a bit of common sense and think about the implications of why the standing orders are addressed that way—why House of Representatives Practice is addressed that way. If we are going to have national security matters dealing with individuals dealt with by parliamentary committees based upon votes we endanger our national security.
I say to this parliament and the member for Denison—and the member for Lyne, who I have every respect for—withdraw your motion. It should not be proceeded with. If it were the case that the suspension had been carried—and it will not be carried, because there isn't an absolute majority—it is very clear that it is not—
Yes, funnily enough, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I have got a fair idea of how people are going to vote. That is why you have not won one yet. I have got a fair idea—and I do talk to people and treat them with respect. I am treating the crossbenchers with respect now, because I say to you that the motion moved by the member for Denison would clearly be out of order had the suspension been carried. The Speaker would have had to rule that way and if it then came to the point of the Speaker's ruling, upon advice from the clerks being dissented from, we would have had an issue that went beyond the issues of substance on national security before us today.
Common sense tells you that while an issue about an individual is being dealt with, it was not appropriate for this resolution to have been moved. Had there been some consultation with the clerks or with appropriate parliamentary practice, I am absolutely certain that common sense would have prevailed. But I do expect the Manager of Opposition Business to act with some responsibility on this matter and not seek, at each and every opportunity, to gain opportunistic political advantage over an issue that should be above opportunistic politics.
National security cannot be a plaything. That is why I objected to questions being raised about what happened at the National Security Committee of the cabinet. That is why we objected to the track of a number of the questions that went down before the parliament today.
The Prime Minister has acted absolutely responsibly and appropriately in asking the appropriate authority, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, to undertake the action as requested by the Prime Minister. So I say to the crossbenchers and to everyone else: don't play politics with national security—act responsibly and think about the consequences and implications behind this motion that was attempted before the chair. This is why the suspension should certainly not have been granted.
With regard to the member for Sturt's motion, I say to him that if it is the case that the member for Flinders missed a vote through misadventure then, of course, in terms of it making a difference to an outcome, if the member for Flinders—
Mr Pyne interjecting—
The member for Flinders and the member for Fisher, both, did not vote in that last division. It is the case that, were that to have occurred through misadventure, I would support a recommittal of the vote. But it is not the case, and what we have here is a motion for the suspension of standing orders, in order to put this motion by the member for Sturt, in spite of his own actions in trying to block this last time. As Leader of the House, I do not engage under the same standards—or lack of standards—that he exhibits as Manager of Opposition Business. I will do the appropriate thing as Leader of the House. People have missed divisions before. What you do is you have a recommittal. That was the agreement where an outcome was altered. If it is the case that the outcome would be altered, then I will agree to a recommittal under the suspension of standing orders. If it is the case that the suspension is carried, I give notice that, if the member for Denison chooses to proceed with his motion and if the member for Lyne chooses to proceed with his seconding of that motion, I will be pointing to the standing orders and House of Representatives Practice which clearly indicate—notwithstanding the good intentions and motivations of the member for Denison and the member for Lyne—that it is highly inappropriate for a very good reason.
Speaker, may I very briefly offer my apologies to the House. Let me make it clear that I was in an interview with Mr David Speers from Sky Television in a soundproof room. As soon as I was aware I took leave. It is my fault and my responsibility. I am the person responsible. I offer my apologies to the House. I will learn to run faster next time.
On the issue in particular, however, of a recommittal, let me say this to the Leader of the House: I can guarantee that my vote will be with the opposition on this. That of itself guarantees that there will be a different numerical outcome. I cannot speak for the member for Fisher but I can guarantee that, automatically, we will be in a one-vote-better position. As to the member for Fisher's position, I will not of course speak for another member of parliament, but the vote will be different. More importantly, in line with the practice, the procedure, the history and the principle of this parliament, and of the very rules and procedures which the Leader of the House agreed to, it would be right and proper and reasonable to follow that practice and allow this recommittal.
The last thing I would say is that on this particular topic, of all topics, it would be right and proper to allow the vote to proceed. This is about a matter of national security. I have had some experience in this space and we have grave issues which need to be addressed. The government should have nothing to be afraid of if it has done nothing wrong. This is about sensible, prudent oversight of the way in which the government has gone about managing national security and the simple message is this: if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear from what has been proposed today.
My response to the Leader of the House is very clear. I am responsible for having made the error and I offer my apologies to the House. The Leader of the House is responsible for the tone, tenor and conduct of the House on their side. This is your chance to live up to the principles which you proclaim. This is your chance and your responsibility. Beyond that, on this matter of all matters of the highest national security, in relation to how we treat those with a jihadist background on the government's watch in the government's time, it is absolutely clear this matter would be different if a vote is taken again. This matter should be different and a vote should be allowed.