Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Assistant Minister for Health; Censure
Devoid of policies, devoid of direction and racked by disunity over the repeal of the carbon tax and of the mining tax; over Qantas, over the Registered Organisations Commission and over the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the ALP have embarked on the tired old transparent tactic of trying to unite the troops by attacking somebody on the other side. But the attack should at least have a skerrick of substance, some semblance of logic to it. Let's be very clear: we on this side know Senator Nash to be a minister of integrity, a minister of capacity. She will continue to be a minister of integrity, she will continue to be a minister of capacity—committed to the service of the people of Australia.
Let me deal with one issue that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate raised—that Senator Nash had failed to respond to an order of the Senate. Well, if that were a crime, Senator Wong and the Labor Party would have been in jail and been censured many, many a time. It is quite proper and reasonable, from time to time, in this chamber, for the chamber to vote for certain matters to be tabled and for the government of the day to decide against it for a variety of reasons. Indeed, Senator Nash has given the Senate a very good reason. Just to make it absolutely clear, let me read into the record a letter from Senator Nash, dated 5 March 2014, directed to our President:
I refer to the Return to Order agreed to by the Senate on 4 March 2013, requesting a copy of the letter submitted by my former Chief of Staff, Mr Alastair Furnival, at the commencement of his employment in my office in September 2013.
The correspondence referred to contains information relating to the personal affairs of an individual staff member. It was provided to me on a confidential basis and it is not practice, of either past or present governments, to divulge personal information about individual staff.
I have outlined the relevant undertakings to the Senate previously and I refer honourable Senators to the relevant Senate and Estimates Hansards.
Clearly dealing with the issue of the motion and setting out rationally, reasonably and comprehensively why she will not be complying with the order of the Senate—but, nevertheless, treating this Senate with respect by responding, the very next day, with a letter to the President outlining the reasons and the rationale.
I think that was item No. 1 in the great attack by Senator Wong. I am sure that those listening in could not help but notice that Senator Wong started running out of puff after about the first minute and just laboriously read through the typewritten speech that she had, word for word, with about as much excitement as reading it out word for word. There was not much commitment in it.
But let me just refer to my good friends the Australian Greens. It will be recalled that, during the discussion in relation to the suspension of standing orders, when I mentioned the matter of the former Labor minister with whom the Greens were in cahoots to allow them to be in government, to allow Senator Bob Carr to serve as the foreign minister, he maintained a shareholding in his lobbying company. Can I just ask a question? Even if everything that is asserted by the Labor Party is correct, what do you reckon is worse—the minister or a staff member holding shares in a lobbying company? I wonder which one might be worse! I think everybody listening would say it would be the minister.
Here we have exhibit A, indicating that Minister Bob Carr maintained his shareholding in a lobbying company. When I raised that Senator Milne got up and said, 'This is the first time I've heard about it! We know nothing!' It was like Colonel Klink, wasn't it?