Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Assistant Treasurer. I refer to his answer to my previous question. Has the minister sought advice on whether the tax office is able to claw back the donation from Shac Communications?
The member for Isaacs's question was prefaced with, 'I refer to the Assistant Treasurer's previous answer,' and then the question he asked had absolutely nothing to do with the Assistant Treasurer's previous answer. His previous answer was about tax administration and the tax being paid by multinationals—
Honourable members interjecting—
The Assistant Treasurer's answer was about the tax being paid by multinationals, because, as you pointed out, he was required to answer on tax administration, which is his responsibility. The member for Isaacs is now trying to use the Assistant Treasurer's previous answer to ask the question he asked before by prefacing it with, 'I refer to the Assistant Treasurer's previous answer,' which is the usual method of doing so, yet the Assistant Treasurer didn't make mention of any of the subjects covered in the member for Isaacs's question.
While the question the member for Isaacs asked did refer to the answer to the previous question, did it rely on that for relevance? It in fact took out the sections of the earlier question that you'd raised an objection to and went specifically to only the issues for which he is responsible as a minister. The Treasury portfolio arrangements, where they list the Assistant Treasurer's responsibilities, make clear that they include taxation legislation and administration. This question goes to the administration of the tax office and nothing else.
I don't need to hear from the Leader of the House; I'm ready to make a ruling. It's an interesting question, the way the member for Isaacs has asked it, because he has used the reference to the previous answer. That, as the Manager of Opposition Business knows, has in the past opened ministers to questions about words they've said. In this case, I believe, by having that as the preamble, it rules that question out of order. Let me be blunt: I think if it didn't have that—if it just had the second sentence—it would be in order, but because you're referring to something he said and trying to link it, I don't believe it is in order; I really don't. I'll say very clearly: the member for Isaacs has asked these questions before, particularly of a former Special Minister of State. If he looks confused, I'd invite him to look at the Hansard of the text of those questions at that time. We'll go to the next question, and that's from the member for Dawson.