Thursday, 21 February 2019
Questions without Notice
My question's to the Prime Minister. In the last financial year, the government spent more than $600 million of taxpayers' money on travel. Can the Prime Minister confirm that Minister Cormann abolished the government travel panel—
Mr McCormack interjecting—
Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question's to the Prime Minister. In the last financial year, this government spent more than $600 million of taxpayer money on travel. Can the Prime Minister confirm that Minister Cormann abolished the government travel panel and made it compulsory for all government travel to be booked through Helloworld companies, moved a senior public servant because Helloworld thought he was driving too hard a bargain and received thousands of dollars worth of free flights from Helloworld? Why hasn't the Prime Minister recalled Ambassador Hockey and sacked Minister Cormann?
A point of order, Mr Speaker: there is a convention in this place that, when a question is asked about a minister being sacked, the Prime Minister is the person to answer that and defend their decision.
We've been over this before. I can see the Manager of Opposition Business finds the issue frustrating but the Practice does make very clear that the Prime Minister can refer a question to any minister and that's longstanding practice. Even if members may think the Prime Minister is better placed to answer it, it doesn't alter the fact that he has that right, and that is a very long standing convention that's written up in the Practice. The Leader of the House has the call.
The question contained a number of different parts, covering both the Minister for Finance and Ambassador Hockey. It contained a series of assertions and implications. The truth is that the Minister for Finance spent five hours in Senate estimates this week answering questions about that issue and covered every aspect of the assertions being made by the Leader of the Opposition. I would refer him to the Hansard record of the Senate estimates and the five hours of questioning, where Senator Cormann went through every single aspect of the issue that was being raised.
He also asked why Ambassador Hockey had not been recalled from Washington. I'll tell you why Ambassador Hockey hasn't been recalled from Washington, because he's doing a darn good job. He's doing a very good job on behalf of the Australian government and the Australian people. He has a series of achievements, and I'm sure, actually, that there would be members on the other side of the House who've visited Washington DC in the last 2½ or three years that Joe Hockey's been the ambassador there. I've never heard one of them criticise the job that Joe Hockey is doing there. They've all been happy to go to the residence, I am sure, for lunch or for dinner or for receptions that the ambassador has put on. I'm sure they told him what a great job he was doing and thanked them for the meetings that he's organised on Capitol Hill yet they come in here and, for their base political purposes, decide to tear down one of the great Treasurers in Australian political history, who set up this year's budget six years and five years ago to get to the point where, in this year's budget, on 2 April, we will deliver a surplus budget, the first surplus budget since Labor were last in office.
Labor, of course, have never delivered a surplus budget since 1989. Because of the good work that Joe Hockey did as Treasurer, we'll deliver a surplus budget. We've created over a million new jobs. We are delivering the infrastructure and services the Australian public expect yet those opposite come in here to smear a good man. He has not been recalled from Washington DC because he's doing a very good job there.
I would refer the member for Rankin and the Leader of the Opposition to the Helloworld clarification of media report to the Australian Stock Exchange. Those clarifications and statements to the ASX are not done lightly. They said, 'At no time has Ambassador Hockey or Helloworld CEO Andrew Burnes discussed the DFAT tender,' and 'Neither Mr Hockey nor Mr Burnes have had any involvement in the tender process.' That's a very clear statement yet Labor continues to try and make connections, which have no connection, and I think the Australian public will see this for what it is.