House debates

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Questions without Notice

Prime Minister

3:02 pm

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

My question is to the Attorney-General. Malcolm Turnbull; the former anticorruption commissioner, David Ipp QC; and former counsel assisting the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Geoffrey Watson SC, have all said the call from the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General to the New South Wales police commissioner about the instigation, nature and substance of the criminal investigation into the minister for emissions reduction was inappropriate. Does the Attorney-General now accept that call should not have been made?

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

Is that the same Geoffrey Watson who made an inappropriate statement in questioning in the New South Wales ICAC? Is that the one? Ah, that's interesting, isn't it? It's a question of judgement, and Mr Watson's judgement is incorrect. In fact, shadow Attorney-General, your judgement has been fairly poor on these sorts of matters, I'd have to say.

A government member: What's the score?

The score is 8-0. So, if we're talking about judgement in these sorts of matters, I had a very interesting occasion. I quickly read through the Legal Profession Uniform Conduct (Barristers) Rules, which apply, of course, to someone in your eminent circumstances, being a Queen's Counsel. 'QC', by the way, doesn't stand for 'quality control' in this particular instance. They say:

A barrister must not allege any matter of fact amounting to criminality, fraud or other serious misconduct against any person unless the barrister believes on reasonable grounds that:

(a) available material by which the allegation could be supported provides a proper basis for it; and

(b) the client wishes the allegation to be made ...

You would think it's the case that, if you referred eight matters and zero of them resulted in anything at all, that would indicate a lack of material providing a proper basis for it. So this is about judgement. The judgement that was exercised quite properly by the Prime Minister was that the call was perfectly appropriate. He informed the House that he was going to make it. He informed the House that it was made. The judgement of the police commissioner, who was at the other end of the call, was that it was appropriate. My judgement is that it was appropriate. What you have determined is that you don't think it's appropriate. Your judgement is simply awful—absolutely awful. I know that you're very interested in the next time that you might be able to exercise your judgement, perhaps as a judge in a Court of Appeal.

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

The Attorney-General will resume his seat. The Leader of the Opposition on a point of order?

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

My point of order is that I'm concerned that the Attorney-General is attacking the chair in the way that he's addressing his remarks not through the chair.

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

The Leader of the Opposition is technically correct, I would point out to the Attorney-General. But the chair hasn't taken offence, so the Attorney-General has the call.

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

And when we were talking about the shadow Attorney-General, he was down on his phone, and I worked out what website he was looking at: it was! He was looking for the next job. And you could see the advertisement he was looking at: 'Court of Appeal judges wanted; must have sizeable ego'! Upholding the high standards of Queen's Counsel

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

I will just say that the Attorney-General is now straying from the question.

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

Having the shadow Attorney-General, after having exercised appalling judgement in eight matters, come to this box and question the judgement of people who actually exercise it in a reserved and cautious fashion—and perhaps finally appointment of senior counsel in Victoria: they must be worthy of confidence and implicit trust by their colleagues at all times. I can tell you what, it's very hard for your colleagues to trust you when you refer eight of them for criminal investigation with zero evidence, zero result, zero judgement.