House debates

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Questions without Notice

Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation

3:15 pm

Photo of Brendan O'ConnorBrendan O'Connor (Gorton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Human Services and refers to previous answers he has given in his current portfolio concerning the raids on the AWU, when TV cameras turned up before the police. Can the minister confirm that no person who at the relevant time worked in his office leaked those raids to the media?

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

I am just pondering whether that question's in order. I don't believe it is, actually. I'm happy to hear from the Manager of Opposition Business.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Opposition Business (House)) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, to the point of order: the question refers to previous answers. In those previous answers, the minister has referred to the raids, has referred to the issue of media being alerted and has referred to the work of his own office. They are the elements of the question.

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

That's a fair point. I'm going to allow it. I will hear from the Leader of the House. If he's got something ultra-compelling—

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

I think it is compelling, Mr Speaker.

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

There is never any doubt about that!

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister could, for example, be asked a question about whether he has made inquiries of his staff about whether they have done a particular action—

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

But that's not what the question is. He can't actually answer what has been done by somebody else. It is not within his knowledge.

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

Let me hear the question again.

Photo of Brendan O'ConnorBrendan O'Connor (Gorton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

From the beginning, Mr Speaker?

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

Don't do it backwards! That's the best place to start!

Photo of Brendan O'ConnorBrendan O'Connor (Gorton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm happy to do it forwards! But I'm happy to do the last question, which is the crux of the issue.

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

I think I'll hear the whole lot, if that's okay.

Photo of Brendan O'ConnorBrendan O'Connor (Gorton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

Thanks, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister for Human Services and refers to previous answers he has given in his current portfolio concerning the raids on the AWU, when TV cameras turned up before the police. Can the minister confirm that no person who at the relevant time worked in his office leaked those raids to the media?

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

I thank the member for Gorton. I am going to allow the question. I do take the point that the Leader of the House has made, but the point is that the minister can address it in any way he wants. And I think that the link to previous answers means that it is in order. So I am going to allow it after all. Minister.

3:18 pm

Photo of Michael KeenanMichael Keenan (Stirling, Liberal Party, Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am very pleased to answer the question, because I've got a lot more to say about this. This goes to the character of the Leader of the Opposition. This goes to the character of the man who wants to be Prime Minister of this country. This goes to the character of the man who already is measuring up the curtains of the office, thinking about how he is going to redecorate The Lodge and how he operates if he were to get into that position of responsibility. His last position of responsibility, the job he had prior to entering the parliament, was running the Australian Workers Union, the AWU, the union which since October 2017 has been running interference and trying to stop the Australian Federal Police from getting the evidence they require to pursue their investigation about wrongdoing within the union. And it goes directly to his behaviour when he was running that union. Can you just take union members' money and give it to whomever you like, including yourself? That's what he did with union members' money.

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

The minister will resume his seat. The Manager of Opposition Business on a point of order.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Opposition Business (House)) Share this | | Hansard source

I respect that there is wide range allowed when there is a large preamble, but this question is quite tight in the specifics of what it asks and what it refers to.

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

Members on my right. I am going to point out to the Manager of Opposition Business—that's why I was pondering the question—that this is the problem in referring to previous answers, and that's exactly what the minister is doing. The minister has the call.

Photo of Michael KeenanMichael Keenan (Stirling, Liberal Party, Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation) Share this | | Hansard source

As I said, I'm very happy to continue to take a lot of questions on this. I understand question time has been extended, and I'm very happy to continue discussing what I know about this matter, which is quite a lot, actually! And I know a lot about political investigations in this place, and, when I was justice minister, I was responsible for overseeing many of them. We always knew how to deal with information in relation to those particularly sensitive cases. And what could be more sensitive than wrongdoing by the man who wants to be the Prime Minister of Australia? What could be more sensitive than that? When he was running the AWU—and this is what the police were investigating—there are allegations that union members' money was used in a cavalier fashion—given out to GetUp!, given out to his own campaign fund—and he has never once taken the opportunity to actually say why he won't allow that evidence to be examined by the police. Those are not the actions of somebody that doesn't have anything to hide.

Government members interjecting

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

Members on my right! The Minister for Agriculture!

Photo of Michael KeenanMichael Keenan (Stirling, Liberal Party, Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation) Share this | | Hansard source

We know how this man would operate as Prime Minister of Australia, because he's told us. He will run the country like he ran the union—and if that's the case, we know how much more we've got to fear from a Labor government.