House debates

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Questions without Notice

COVID-19: Quarantine

2:49 pm

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister. Yesterday the Queensland Premier confirmed the 25th COVID outbreak from hotel quarantine and called on the Morrison-Joyce government to establish a regional quarantine facility. Does the Deputy Prime Minister support a purpose-built quarantine facility in regional Queensland, which would provide regional jobs, boost the regional economy and keep Australians safe from COVID?

2:50 pm

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

At the start, I'd just like to table a statement pertinent to what I said before. Obviously, the national cabinet, working together, is doing everything within its power to make sure that we achieve the outcome that we want—that is, that no-one dies of COVID—and we have been remarkably successful in that process. You brought up Queensland and why it's pertinent there. We are so proud of the fact that Cape York is a COVID-free regional area, that Emerald is a COVID-free regional area, that Theodore is a COVID-free regional area, that Roma is a COVID-free regional area, that Miles is a COVID-free regional area and that my own home town of St George is a COVID-free regional area. If we go up to the member for Leichhardt's area, Innisfail is a COVID-free regional area. Biloela, in the member for Flynn's area, is a COVID-free regional area.

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

I'll say to the Deputy Prime Minister, if he could just resume his seat for a second: everyone's entitled to a preamble in answers—I've made it clear—but we're more than a minute in and the Deputy Prime Minister will need to now bring himself to the substance of the question or wind up his answer.

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. To go to the substance of the question, I'd like to refer to the minister—

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

The Manager of Opposition Business on a point of order.

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

Practice makes clear that the Prime Minister can refer answers to other ministers. There is no precedent for ministers referring answers to other ministers.

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

I actually have been reflecting on this. I'll now need to find the page for you. The Deputy Prime Minister can have the call, then I'll address the matter.

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a shame, but no doubt he would have gone to the point that a regional facility can only be approved if they believe it has a tertiary medical facility proximate to it, and that is the decision of the national cabinet, and that is why we don't have regional processing facilities.

Opposition members interjecting

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

Members on my left! If the member for Flynn can be his normal patient self for a second, I will just address that matter, because certainly that's been the convention, and that's normally what has happened. But the Practice does state that a minister—I'll try to paraphrase—may refuse to answer a question. He or she may also transfer a question to another minister, and it's not in order to question the reasons for doing so. The Manager of Opposition Business is making a reasonable point; I think the convention will show that they don't do it halfway through. That's something the Prime Minister does. So you could transfer it at the start, but the practice of adding to the Prime Minister's answer is, I think, one we want to maintain. 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

When it is transferred at the start, it's only on the basis that the question has been asked of the wrong minister.

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

No; I'll come back to that. We might as well deal with this now, quickly. It could happen if it's addressed to an incorrect minister, that's true. But it also says:

If a question has been addressed to the incorrect Minister, the responsible Minister may answer, but a Member has been given an opportunity to redirect the question.

It also says:

In many instances the responsibilities referred to in a question may be shared by two or more Ministers and it is only the Ministers concerned who are in a position to determine authoritatively which of them is more responsible.

That's certainly the case. I think that if it covers more than one policy area it could be transferred at the start. I think that's an acceptable way to go.

I call the ever-patient member for Flynn.