Senate debates

Monday, 11 September 2023


Aviation Industry; Order for the Production of Documents

5:48 pm

Photo of Ross CadellRoss Cadell (NSW, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'd like to play poker with this government, because it's got a tell—a big tell. Something is wrong here when you can't give the date for when you met and when you spoke, when you can't be sure if you spoke, and when you give an OPD document where there are seven dot points and they are all blacked out. For all that we know, they were options A, B, C, D, E, F and G—the seven original answers that might have been given individually for the single reason that we had to cancel this. Then we go to the back page and we have two more crossed out. I imagine they are options 8 and 9 that we can't say were the reasons for this. The only thing not blacked out is 'in the national interest'. This government thinks: 'We floated all these answers. Let's try this one and this one. This one sounds good; let's keep with that. So that's this week. Now we'll get some different dates out. We'll see which one holds and doesn't embarrass the Prime Minister too much.'

I note that before the election Prime Minister Albanese said:

… when I make a mistake, I'll fess up to it, and I'll set about correcting the mistake. I won't blame someone else. I'll accept responsibility. That's what leaders do.

What leaders do is take responsibility. So we're in a parliament without a leader. It's the old original take note I gave: dodge ball—duck, dive, dodge, weave and dip. That's what's happening here. We can't nail the date for when these people did or didn't speak. We can't name a reason that was actually the reason. We can't get an answer out of all these blacked-out dot points. It's simple if this is an honest, easy decision and you're sticking with it. Come clean. It's not that hard: 'I met with so and so on this date. We discussed it. We thought 'national interest'. Get rid of it. This issue is gone.' This should have been a one-day or two-day issue. It is a five-week issue because when you lie you get caught. Sorry, when you're untrue, you get caught. I withdraw.

When you are part of a cover up, you always worsen the sin. It's footy finals time and the Newcastle Knights won on the weekend. I was corporate manager for the Newcastle Knights. Always the cover ups are worse than the sins for the players. We have it here, the same thing. It is a document that says nothing. This document doesn't even have a date stamp on it. When was the last time you saw a government document without a date stamp? Just come out. Who met whom, who said what, when did it happen, what was the truth?

That is why it is really intriguing for those on this side. It is really simple, but we get nothing but this duck, dive, dodge, weave and dodge, or whatever it is. We get this simple answer: 'Mr Michael McCormack, when he was the minister, did the same thing.' There weren't these slots available. We didn't have one-third of capacity coming into Australia to give up. We didn't have flights the price that they were. My wife was in tears as she said goodbye to her parents from Wales, who were visiting at the beginning of COVID as they got on a Qatar Airlines flight to get home, because they were the last ones flying and getting people home from Australia. They were doing the right thing by this nation and by the people. They were bringing people back. They were taking people to Europe. They were getting people home. But it's not in the national interest to let people know how we came up with this decision.

We've got one OPD back to date. There are many more on this. People all through the government have got their black crayons out, scribbling: don't want to know the date, don't want to know the reason, don't want to know the time. People are paying more for their flights than they should be. People have fewer destinations for their flights than they should have. The only thing this has increased is the stress on the Australian people and the stress on the staffers who have to try and cover up decisions that are bad for the government.

I look forward to the other OPD things here. I look forward to playing poker with the government, topping up our wages with the money from your till. I look forward to the truth being free in this place, eventually, because it will come out, and every person that has said a thing that is different will be tied to that decision. The first scalp of the government is a big one, but people are tying themselves to this. It just feels like someone did something wrong and we're covering it up. With that, I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.


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