Thursday, 23 March 2023
Yes, we do try to talk with people ahead of time. Yes, we do. We are trying desperately to put arrangements in this place that give respect to every member of this place about what is happening and when it is happening. I reach out to people. I contact people before each sitting week and say: 'Is there anything we can do? Are there any issues you want to raise? How do we deal with them during the sitting week?' That is so it is done in an orderly fashion and we aren't dealing with situations like this.
In terms of the substance of the motion that Senator Lambie is seeking to move—and people have chosen to take their five minutes to concentrate on that rather than debate the suspension of the standing orders—the Albanese government does take transparency and accountability in government seriously. We are implementing a higher standard. We have the National Anti-Corruption Commission. We have, through the joint standing committee of the parliament, agreed on draft codes of conduct for parliamentarians. We will progress that through the enhanced PWSS and the arrangements that have been put in place by Set the standard. Senator Waters, Senator Hume, Senator Farrell, Senator Davey and I, with members from the other place, are members of the Parliamentary Leadership Taskforce that is to put in place appropriate conduct and standards for parliamentarians and make them accountable through their chambers to the people for the standards and behaviour. That is happening.
We have whistleblower reform underway. We are dealing with the boards and appointment processes through reviews. We have the Attorney's work that he's doing through the AAT on improving processes there. A whole range of work is going on about cleaning up the mess and putting in place the right infrastructure to make sure that government and the rest of us as MPs and senators are transparent and accountable.
We of course have the FOI Act. The FOI Act is followed and is applied in accordance with the law that has been established by this place to ensure that there is a mechanism for people to have access to documents where they meet the requirements of the FOI Act.
On the diaries of the Prime Minister—or of any minister—you can mostly see the Prime Minister's diary every day because he's out and about doing meetings, doing functions, meeting with people and holding press conferences. You will not find a busier person in this place than the Prime Minister. He is more than happy to be accountable for the people he meets, the decisions he takes and the positions of the government. There are laws that apply to the seeking of information. They are being followed.
In accordance with the approach that we have taken, we are raising the standard of accountability and transparency in government. We do take it seriously. There are plenty of opportunities for us to have a longer debate on this should the Senate choose.