Wednesday, 27 July 2022
Questions without Notice
I want to thank the member for Blair for his question. All of us in this House would acknowledge that this is a person who comes to work every day and acts with the utmost of integrity, and so it's no surprise to get the question from him today.
Last week the Australian government made a decision to release a report written by Secretary Mike Pezzullo into the disgraceful actions of the former government to release information about a boat arrival on election day on 21 May. This was the former government sabotaging protocols that protect Operation Sovereign Borders and protect the people in uniform who do dangerous and difficult work. One of the truly outrageous things about the secretary's report is that it details the fact that the decision was made by the former Minister for Home Affairs to release this information while the operation was on foot. This is without precedent in the history of Operation Sovereign Borders, and what it meant was that an operation that was being undertaken by Border Force and Defence Force officials was undermined by the shadow minister who now sits opposite me.
The report also details the fact that, despite the Prime Minister at the time asking the Minister for Home Affairs to release the statement herself, she chose not to do that. Instead, she put the acid on a Defence Force official, who wears uniform for our country, to make the statement for her. That was an act of cowardice. If you are going to politicise this operation, you do it yourself and you put your name to the work that you do. The shadow minister opposite had an opportunity—
To the point of order, the standing order on reflections on members is a very important one. But it doesn't extend to explaining what a member in fact did. If the actions are taken to be, 'Well, that's terrible that the person did that,' and a whole lot of conclusions are drawn, that's on the member. The standing order is not there to protect members from the accurate description of what they did.
Mr Speaker, the relevant standing order says:
All imputations of improper motives to a Member and all personal reflections on other Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
So it should be withdrawn—it was disorderly.
I thank the Manager. In listening to the minister carefully, she didn't reflect directly on the former minister. Standing order 90 is important. She was referring to the situation; she did not refer directly to the minister. But, if she did, I would enforce standing order 90.
Order, member for Petrie. I intend to enforce the standing orders, particularly standing order 90. In this case, the minister did not reflect directly on the member. I will listen carefully to her and to all members to ensure that standing order is enforced. I call the minister.
Mr Speaker, with all due respect to you, I just want to take you up on the point of your recollection of what was a very clear statement by the minister. I hope that she's able to step up and clarify for you that it was in fact a direct reflection on the shadow minister. The minister, in her statement, made a comment directly in relation to the shadow minister about actions that she took that resulted in a uniformed officer et cetera. That was a direct reflection on the shadow minister.
I'd like to say to those opposite: if you don't want to be accused of acts of cowardice and if you don't want to be accused of breaching your duty and the trust you owe to the Australian people, don't do it. Don't do what's in this report. I don't need to make it up. We've got a report here on the public record that outlines the disgraceful conduct of the former government.
The shadow minister opposite has had an opportunity to defend herself. Any of us accused of these things would come forward and apologise. But that's not what we heard. We heard a denial that the apolitical mandate of the Public Service was subverted. Wrong. It's in the report. We heard a denial that she put pressure on the Public Service. It's in the report.
I just want to close by saying this: we should not become inured to these things in our democracy. This was a disgraceful, unprecedented act that should never have happened, and those opposite stand condemned for doing it.