Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Wong. Has the minister, the minister's office or the minister's department received a verbal recommendation from Mr David Gonski about who in his considered opinion should be the next chair of the Future Fund?
I want to make very clear a number of things. One is that the government takes all appointments, but particularly the appointments to the Future Fund, very seriously. We believe it is extremely important that the fund be above politics. I do not intend, given the current speculation, to comment on any speculation around government appointments to this body. The position of chair is obviously extremely important and the government's approach has consistently been, and will consistently be, that the best individual for the job will be appointed, and an announcement will be made in due course. I do not intend to engage in speculation around this. I do want to make this point—that, once an appointment has been announced, I will be very happy to take questions about that process and the detail of same.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Firstly, I note that the minister has not denied that she received a verbal recommendation from Mr Gonski about who in his considered opinion should be the next chair of the Future Fund. My question is: given that, according to Laura Tingle, the Financial Review was shown a copy of Mr Gonski's written advice, will the minister make that written advice from Mr Gonski to the Department of Finance and Deregulation about the appointment of the next Future Fund chair public and, if not, why not?
Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Cormann has developed the habit of asking a question and then shouting at the minister constantly, particularly Senator Wong. While I am not one to be precious about the odd interjection, this is ridiculous—he continually shouts at the minister while she is trying to give her answers. I would ask you to call him to order. As I say, while I support humorous or effective interjections, merely trying to shout down the minister constantly is just bullyboy behaviour.
As is appropriate given an appointment of this significance, the government has undertaken a thorough process to identify potential candidates. As I have said, as no appointment has been finalised I do not believe it is appropriate to discuss processes further at this point. I again indicate to the chamber I would be very happy to answer further questions after an appointment has been made.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Does the minister deny that she received a verbal recommendation from Mr Gonski? And, given that Mr Gonski's two-page memo about the appointment of the next chair of the Future Fund to the Department of Finance and Deregulation has been given to a journalist at the Australian Financial Review to read, why should the Senate and the public at large not be entitled to read it?
I believe that is the same question I have been asked on two occasions. I again make the point that we as a government have undertaken a very thorough process, as is appropriate given the importance of these appointments, unlike those opposite, apparently. It is disappointing to see this occurring. We believe the fund should be above partisan politics—we do—and that is the way we have approached this. I make clear that I am happy to take questions in relation to the process after an appointment has been announced, subsequent to finalisation.