Thursday, 18 October 2018
Questions without Notice
Minister for the Environment
My question is to the Minister for the Environment. Yesterday, during question time, the minister categorically denied telling the former President of Kiribati: 'I know why you're here. It's for the cash. For the Pacific it's always about the cash. I have my chequebook here. How much do you want?' But multiple sources have since confirmed that is exactly what the minister said. Given it's been 24 hours since the minister misled this House, will the minister now comply with the ministerial standards and correct the record?
Opposition members interjecting—
It wasn't organised. It wasn't organised. I'm a pretty friendly person, I consider Senator Dodson a friend, so I went over and said, 'Hi, Pat, how are you going?' He said, 'Oh, come and meet my guest,' which I did do, and I was introduced to the former President of the Republic of Kiribati, President Tong, with whom we had a very pleasant, lighthearted conversation. I don't recall the complete conversation, but what I do know is that when I have looked at the letter from Senator Dodson, which describes the conversation, I know that is not the conversation.
I received this letter, Mr Speaker, at 10 to two yesterday, so my first opportunity to speak with President Tong was to call him directly after question time. What I said to him was that I don't agree with the words that were reflected in the letter but if—if—I have caused any concern then I'm very sorry about that. And he accepted my apology.
Further, I agree with President Tong's comments this morning in the media when he said, 'Let's put this behind us and let's move on.' We agree with that, because this government greatly values our relationship with our Pacific nation neighbours.