Senate debates

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Answers to Questions on Notice

Questions Nos 223, 224, 225, 226, 227 and 234

3:17 pm

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I would like to contribute to the debate to pay tribute to Senator Nash, the way she has handled the portfolio and the way she has answered questions. It is so different to the previous government; we are still waiting for answers about Copenhagen and what happened at the climate change conference there. I am still waiting for a number of questions that I put on notice to the previous government. Yet the hypocrisy of the Labor Party shows through and here is a motion moved 30 days after.

I think the record will show that Senator Nash, in responding to the inquiry by the Leader of the Opposition—who I might say read every part of her speech, and I would suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that she get a new speech writer—explained to anyone who wanted to listen that her office was very busy. I heard her say that they were actually working on the answers to those questions. I also heard her say that most of the questions were asked by Senator Wong at estimates and were either answered there or taken on notice there. Since that time, there have been other questions.

I wanted to put just a modicum of fact into that bile filled speech from the previous speaker about someone who I think is doing a magnificent job as a minister. I have to say as well, it is refreshing how open the Abbott government has been and how accountable it has been in all of the very important and serious matters that it has been involved in. I have been here for a long while now—some say too long. I have sat through the Hawke and Keating governments, I have sat through the Howard government and I have sat through the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government. There is a pattern that I have noticed over those years with Labor: how they run the union movement, how they run the Labor Party in New South Wales, how they looked after Mr Thompson and how they looked after Mr Williamson. These two icons of the Labor Party are now facing criminal charges and jail, but they looked after them and kept everything secret even from members of the HSU, the union that was paying for Mr Thompson's theft. Unions and the Labor Party itself were hiding Mr Williamson.

I have noticed over the years that Labor governments follow the New South Wales Labor dictum of keeping everything secret. That way, you never get into trouble. Unfortunately, things do come out, as we have heard. Senator Dastyari will know, because he was around in part of the cover-up, and my namesake—I am embarrassed to say that he is my namesake—will know how the Labor Party looked after these people, covered up for them and were never accountable, not even to their own members and not even to the union members who were paying them.

I have seen this over many years. It is the Labor way to cover-up, obfuscate and never answer a question. We think question time these days is a bit rowdy when you hear the opposition catcalling, but at least at question time now senators are getting answers to questions. I well remember when this matter was first raised with Senator Nash. I thought to myself, having been around for a while, 'Do not say anything, take it on notice, go and look at it.' But immediately Senator Nash got up and gave an explanation on the very first day. I thought, 'That is the sign of a very, very good minister.' A good minister is someone who is across the portfolio and able to deal with all of these issues.

I might say that in the substantive part of her portfolio she is doing excellent work, such as in rural and regional Australia and I guess elsewhere as well. I just want to answer Senator Wong's accusation of 'an arrogant stonewall'. Well, that Labor leader using 'an arrogant stonewall' as a description just fades away to stupidity when you actually hear what the answer was. The department has been very busy. They have had an enormous number of questions through estimates, not about this issue but about real issues in the portfolio, and they are, obviously, giving attention to them. Senator Nash did say that they were working on the answers, so they are going to come, unlike the answers to the questions on Copenhagen which we are still waiting on. As the minister said, she had already answered many of the questions at estimates. I wanted to make sure that anyone who might be listening to this debate is not confused by the tirade that we just heard from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.

Question agreed to.


No comments