Tuesday, 17 October 2023
Special Purpose Flights; Order for the Production of Documents
That the Senate take note of the statement.
There was a complete failure on the part of the minister to engage with the issue that a majority in this House took issue with. The original order for the production of documents included all guidelines in relation to special-purpose flights. This is a matter of significant public concern. There were millions and millions and millions of dollars of now secret flights taken by Defence Minister Marles and other senior ministers. I note, in saying that, that in fact the foreign minister, who you would think would be at the top of the list for special-purpose flights, given the nature of the portfolio, is a relative minnow in this space.
The ministers that have been taking millions and millions of dollars worth of flights start with the defence minister, and the defence minister is refusing to say where those flights began and where they ended. The notional argument about not providing that information is that 'somebody in the AFP has got a concern that it might disclose a pattern of life'. These are meant to be special-purpose flights—extraordinary flights—not standard flights. It's not a taxi from Geelong to Sydney. They're meant to only be special-purpose flights. If they're showing a pattern, get a commercial flight, because commercial flights are designed for where there is a pattern.
So we've had the government refuse to disclose where the flights began and where they ended and refuse to disclose the advice on which that was based. Then we had the defence minister say to the parliament, in answer to questions in the other place—it was put on the record—that the government is fully complying with the guidelines when it comes to the disclosure of special-purpose flights. That's what Minister Marles said: 'The government fully complies with the guidelines on special-purpose flights.'
We found out through this OPD that the only guidelines that are in place are now a bit over a decade old and that those guidelines require six-monthly disclosure of all the information, which Minister Marles has refused to do. So, on the one hand, he said in answers to questions in the other place that the government has fully complied with the guidelines. Then we found out through the OPD and the documents that were produced under Senate order that the only guidelines that are in place are those guidelines from more than a decade ago, which require the full disclosure of the flights. Then we found out that there are in fact draft guidelines. The OPD required the production of all guidelines. That includes draft and final guidelines.
So we got a response from the government to the OPD that refused to provide the draft guidelines. Then we found out that the government, whilst insulting the Senate and not providing it to the Senate, did indeed provide those draft guidelines to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security—a gross discourtesy and flouting of the authority of the Senate. The government has said they can choose who they produce the draft guidelines to. They've chosen to provide them to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, and they've thumbed their nose at the Senate. Then the response from Minister Wong didn't even mention it. It's a contemptuous response from the leader of the government in this chamber. It's utterly contemptuous of the Senate. It's an utterly, shamelessly contemptuous response from the leader of the government that doesn't even mention the core issue—the failure to produce the draft guidelines. What on earth could be the secrecy of draft guidelines? (Time expired)