House debates

Monday, 10 September 2018

Questions without Notice

Minister for Home Affairs

3:04 pm

Photo of Mark DreyfusMark Dreyfus (Isaacs, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Attorney General) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Section 44 of the Constitution provides that any person who has a financial interest in an agreement with the Commonwealth is disqualified from sitting in parliament. Is the Prime Minister aware of a letter sent to a childcare centre owned by the Minister for Home Affairs's family trust which says:

This Approval letter, together with the Conditions of Funding, make up the agreement between the Commonwealth and You …

When will the Prime Minister refer the Home Affairs minister to the High Court so that doubts about his qualifications to be a member of parliament under section 44 of the Constitution can be resolved?

3:05 pm

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll ask the Attorney-General to add to my answer. The short answer is that those matters were understood by the Solicitor-General at the time of the previous advice being prepared. I'll ask the Attorney-General to speak more on this, but I tell you what I'm not going to allow. The Australian people have had a gutful of these games. They want us to get on with business, and that's what my government is going to do.

Mr Pasin interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Barker will cease interjecting. The Attorney-General has the call.

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member, through the Prime Minister, for the question. Of course, the history to this is that Labor commissioned an advice for Mr Walker and Mr Mack. That advice made a conclusion—not a conclusion shared by three other pieces of public advice that are now available. The Solicitor-General's advice, in fact, dealt with the very agreement that you've spoken about. What Labor now contend is that the conclusion contained in the Walker and Mack advice is absolutely critical to the integrity of this parliament. If that is so and if the conclusion contained in the Labor advice is so absolutely critical to the integrity of this parliament, there's is one very obvious and very important question that requires answering before we proceed any further: why did Labor wait 126 days before deciding to provide that advice to the parliament? When you look at the cover page of that advice that's now oh so important, the date written on Mr Walker and Mr Mack's advice is 18 April 2018. It was sent to me as Attorney-General 126 days later, late on the evening of 22 August 2018. If any of us here as members of parliament thought that we had information truly critical to the integrity of this parliament, do you think we would sit on it for 126 days?

What happened? It couldn't be the case someone as learned as the shadow Attorney-General took 126 days to read it. Jack Kerouac wrote a whole bestselling novel in three weeks! What happened that was so important you had to sit on it for 126 days? Surely, if any of us truly believed that we had information that critical to the parliament, that important, striking at the heart of the integrity of this fine institution, we would abide by our duty to this parliament to disclose it to the parliament.

Three members of the Labor Party sat on an entire parliamentary committee into section 44. There were seven public hearings, and we're meant to believe that they had advice that they believed utterly critical to this issue and didn't disclose it to this parliament. Give us a break.