House debates

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Questions without Notice

Member for Chisholm

2:29 pm

Photo of Mark DreyfusMark Dreyfus (Isaacs, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Attorney General) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister's previous answer, where he said the test was whether money changed hands. I refer to the government's responsibility for the AEC and its role in receiving financial returns for political parties, and I refer to a report in the Herald Sun by James Campbell that the Liberal Party returned $300,000 in donations from dinner guests associated with the member for Chisholm because of security concerns, and to the member for Chisholm's statement last night that the donation and its return was all made up. Prime Minister, is she correct?

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

I'm just going to ask the Prime Minister to resume his seat. I can see he's more than willing to answer the question. I'm happy to hear from the Manager of Opposition Business and Leader of the House. I think the question is out of order. I will tell you what—

Mr Burke interjecting

Whether the Prime Minister wants to answer a question or not does not mean it's in order, I regret to inform him! I don't think this question is in order. Whilst it referred to a previous answer and a statement, the substance of the question very much went to the responsibilities of political parties with respect to declarations to the AEC. I appreciate that the member for Isaacs has endeavoured as best he can to talk about the responsibility of the AEC, but the issue he's dealing with is one of independence between the AEC and the political parties. I don't think the member for Isaacs would for a minute think that the Prime Minister administers or the minister actually administers anything to do with the Australian Labor Party's donations and dealings with the AEC. So, notwithstanding the Prime Minister's eagerness, I feel it is out of order. The Manager of Opposition Business.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

Notwithstanding your comments about the independence of the AEC, the government is responsible for all government agencies. And a minister can stand up and say they deal with that independently, but they are responsible to this parliament for all government agencies. If no financial returns have been given to the Australian Electoral Commission from the Liberal Party then they can answer on behalf of the Australian Electoral Commission. We're not asking them to answer on behalf of what the Liberal Party submitted.

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

The Leader of the House.

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm torn between my loyalty to the Prime Minister, who's ready, willing and able, and my great respect for your judgements. In those circumstances, it's clear that your ruling that asking the Prime Minister about political party matters as they relate to the AEC and donations is out of order is correct, but one option might be

Opposition members interjecting

I am trying to help you. One option might be for the wit and wisdom of the Shadow Attorney-General to quickly rephrase the question to omit that part.

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

Now that I've heard from you both, you've absolutely confirmed in my mind my ruling was correct! I will go to the next question.