Thursday, 25 March 2021
Questions without Notice
Members of Parliament: Staff
My question is to the Prime Minister: I refer to comments made by Peta Credlin regarding unacceptable behaviour at parliament by government staff. She said:
The other three that Peter Van Onselen broke in his story earlier this week, I know who you are. I see you.
Has the government contacted Ms Credlin in order to identify the staffers?
I point out that question cannot be in order. It's not within the prime ministerial responsibilities or his duties to be commenting on comments made by a commentator.
Opposition members interjecting—
To the point of order, this exact topic was questioned about yesterday and considered in order yesterday. This question simply refers to the comments by Peta Credlin but then asks: has the government contacted her in order to identify the staffers? Questions about these staffers and the issues around Parliament House were in order yesterday. It's those facts that are the reason for the question, not the fact there's a statement from Peta Credlin.
I'm going to rule on the point of order. I understand the point that the Leader of the House is making and I certainly considered the wording of the earlier questions when they came up. I didn't simply allow them because there was no objection. I mean, as you well know, I have ruled out questions. These are all covered in the standing orders and the Practice, where it is a question about a statement a government backbencher might have made because the Prime Minister has no responsibility for those. I think the difference here, though, is very much the nature of the question with respect to government MPs and staff more generally, which is why I allowed the question yesterday and I will allow it again today. In doing so, of course there's some latitude in how it's answered because, as I pointed out, on many occasions, some of these questions, you allow them but it doesn't mean it's necessarily within the capacity of the minister answering to be able to answer it or answer straightaway.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for your insight on that matter. I thank the member also for that question. A similar question was asked yesterday by the member for Gorton. These are very serious matters and the government is taking them very seriously. Where matters such as this can be pursued then we will. But I don't think it is helpful to provide a running commentary on such sensitive matters and how any inquiries on these things may be being pursued. I don't think that's a very responsible thing to do here. We have spent quite a bit of time here in recent weeks talking about the importance of process in relation to how complaints or issues may arise regarding the conduct of staff or others in this place. I propose to honour that in how I deal with these things. I would encourage others to follow the same practice.