Senate debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Answers To Questions

3:29 pm

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of all answers to all questions asked by coalition Senators during question time today.

Some very good questions were asked today in question time by the coalition senators, but, rather disappointingly, the answers that were given by Labor's ministers were somewhat disappointing. It is a variation on a theme, and it's a theme that has been a trademark of this government—that is, a lack of transparency and a lack of the willingness or the ability to give answers to questions. We saw that in question time today, particularly in relation to the questions asked concerning the decision to refuse Qatar Airways additional flights to Australia. We have a pattern of behaviour with Labor ministers being opaque and using a lot of words—a lot of ums and ahs—to say nothing. That is disappointing, because this chamber exists to hold the executive to account. Whether you're a believer in states' rights or just a believer in the fundamental principles of democracy, it is an important principle that the executive be held accountable.

We've seen this pattern in question time today, and my colleagues Senator Ruston and Senator Cadell have just talked about the failure of this government to answer questions placed on notice. Indeed, I moved a similar motion in the Senate last week concerning questions that I put on notice. As of about an hour ago, 22 of those are still outstanding, no doubt sitting either on the minister's desk somewhere or in the bowels of a government department. That is not good enough, because we're here representing the voters and the taxpayers of Australia, and it's important that the voters and the taxpayers of Australia know that their money, which funds this government and the Public Service, is being appropriately spent and that ministers and public servants are being held to account.

What we've seen in question time today is a continual trend where ministers refuse to answer questions, particularly when it comes to Qatar. We can't work out what Labor are hiding here. Clearly, something is being hidden, because of the different answers that are being put forward by Labor ministers concerning that particular decision. It goes not just to the decision of Minister Catherine King but to the information leading up to the decision that was made by Minister King. Questions were put to Minister Farrell today concerning whether he and Senator Wong were consulted with and the time line. What is interesting is that no information was forthcoming. We should not be surprised by that, because Minister King and other ministers have put forward seven excuses in as many weeks as to—


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