Thursday, 29 October 2020
Questions without Notice
Australian Airline Financial Relief Package
My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister. I refer to the government's $715 million Australian Airline Financial Relief Package. Has any taxpayer money subsidised Clive Palmer's electioneering in Queensland, including his visits to Townsville?
I will hear from the Manager of Opposition Business in a second. I just say in response to that point, whilst that is a valid and logical point to make, the history of question time is that the Speaker can't judge what a minister should or shouldn't know. As I've said during the course of the week, the question may seem—
Honourable members interjecting—
The Minister for Education and the member for Kingston!
Honourable members interjecting—
Yes. That's right. I'm glad they designed anterooms that you might be able to chat in. So, there is a long history where Speakers can't judge what's being asked as unreasonable. But I'll hear from the Manager of Opposition Business.
To the point of order, the question goes directly to the use of taxpayer money. It refers to the government program where taxpayer money would be coming from, and asks whether or not it's being used for that purpose of electioneering in Queensland. The question is about the payment of taxpayer money.
With respect to the second part of the question, which spoke to what was described as an individual's 'electioneering' in Queensland, that is impossible—literally impossible—for the minister to know. What a person does in a place is surely outside any possibility of the minister knowing, and outside his portfolio.
I will rule on this now, and try and rule more clearly, perhaps. If it involves a minister's responsibilities—and clearly it's a program with taxpayers' funds, so it does involve the minister's responsibility—the question can be asked. Without denigrating the question, it can be entirely unreasonable for a minister to carry that knowledge. But, since I have been pushed on it, that is why we have questions without notice that can be answered on the spot or can be taken on notice. It was a very common practice 40 or 50 years ago. It's less common today. Otherwise, you wouldn't have that capacity, and whole swathes of questions would be ruled out of order. So the question is in order. I was worried about another aspect of it, which is the Queensland election having nothing to do with us, but I think there is that linkage there with taxpayers' money and that the question's in order.
This is a good program. It is helping operators right around the country to have planes in the air, and planes in the air means jobs on the ground, even for Clive Palmer. We do not discriminate. And how could I possibly know, member for Oxley, what Clive Palmer spends his money on?
These are rebates. These are waivers. There are 1,360 operators, including those who are donors to the Australian Labor Party. I don't ask them to refund the money. I don't ask them to forgo any waivers, and nor do I ask any of the operators out of Ballarat Airport to forgo the waivers, to forgo the rebates. There are many donors to the Labor Party, and one in particular. I'm not going to ask for a refund from them. I don't know what Mr Palmer spends his money on, and nor should I.