Thursday, 21 February 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is again to the Prime Minister. What is the Prime Minister's response to the fact that the document provided to Senate estimates today includes, and I quote, 'I asked Mr Burnes, "How could this be done so quickly?" He verbally advised me, "Hockey owes me"'?
The question is claiming—is making the implication—that somehow the ambassador in Washington intervened in a tender process and had a conflict of interest. That is the gravamen of the question. The truth is, as we pointed out yesterday in the House, Mr Hockey has absolutely no role in the tender process whatsoever. He isn't the decision-maker. For there to be a conflict of interest, there has to be some capacity for Mr Hockey to have been able to influence the tender and be involved in it. But he's not the decision-maker. The decision-maker is the DFAT chief financial officer. That was pointed out yesterday, Mr Speaker.
I'm sorry, Mr Speaker. I don't need to do it all again! The very clear point here is that the Labor Party are trying to smear Joe Hockey. And the central gravamen of their argument is that somehow he had a conflict of interest and influenced a tender outcome. The point I was making was that he has absolutely nothing to do with the outcome of the decision-making process in this tender, which is actually ongoing. It hasn't been completed yet. The decision-maker is the DFAT chief financial officer. It's also been pointed out that the Australian embassy staff who met with QBT on 26 April were not meeting in relation to the tender process. Labor is trying, in some smear and slur to distract from their current political woes, to conflate meetings that had nothing to do with a tender with a tender that has nothing to do with the ambassador, Joe Hockey. It is a desperate move by the Labor Party. They haven't been able to produce any evidence whatsoever that the ambassador has made any attempt at any point to influence the tender. Therefore, he has no conflict of interest.
It is perfectly normal for officials from embassies, for ambassadors, to meet with people from industry. One of the main jobs of an ambassador or a high commissioner is to promote Australia's interests. If the Labor Party were right, then no ambassador or high commissioner would be able to accept meetings from anybody in industry—the defence industries or other industries—where a decision might need to be made about a tender on a particular contract. That is clearly absurd. Taken to its logical conclusion, ministers would not be allowed to meet with people in industries from their own portfolios who were promoting products and services that they thought the government might like to purchase.
Clearly, the Labor Party is desperately reaching for straws to try to distract from the fact that this fortnight was supposed to be about when the government finally collapsed. That was the Labor Party message to the press and to the people leading up to this fortnight. They really over-egged the omelette about what was going to happen in this fortnight. Half of the things that Labor told the press gallery were going to go on when the parliament sat didn't happen. They didn't happen.
The truth is, at the end of this week we're talking about border protection. This side of the House is in favour of strong border protection, and that side of the House has been proven to be in favour of weak border protection. We're talking about retiree's taxes, housing taxes and small business taxes, which Labor would support $200 billion of—