Tuesday, 18 March 2014
Questions without Notice
Australian Water Holdings
My question is to the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Sinodinos. I refer to the Assistant Treasurer's statement to the Senate on 28 February 2013 concerning Australian Water Holdings which he as minister saw fit to reaffirm on 6 March 2014. In that statement he asserted that at the time he became chair of the company he was not aware of the so-called loan arrangement with the Obeid family. Can the Assistant Treasurer confirm that in November 2010 the Obeid family bought 30 per cent of all shares in Australian Water Holdings? Did the Assistant Treasurer become aware of this purchase before or after his appointment as Assistant Treasurer?
Mr President, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The question was asking directly about timing of knowledge. It was a question about timing of knowledge before or after he took up this particular post.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Order! If you wish to debate it, you do so after three o'clock. There is no point of order because the minister had given his answer and resumed his seat. I cannot tell a minister, anyway, how to answer a question. The minister had completed his answer when you took your point of order, so the minister, as far as I am concerned, had finished answering the question.
Mr President, I have a supplementary question, because I continue to ask the Assistant Treasurer to expand on the answer he has made in his previous statements. I continue to request further information, as indeed may surface in ICAC, but can the Assistant Treasurer confirm that Eddie Obeid Jr was employed by Australian Water Holdings as an executive with a salary of $350,000 a year?
Mr President, I have a further supplementary question. We continue to ask when the Assistant Treasurer became aware of this information. When did he become aware that the so-called loan arrangement between the Obeid family and Australian Water Holdings was a sham designed to cover up the true nature of their relationship? Was he Assistant Treasurer at the time?
Mr President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Conroy just plainly reflected on your ruling. He interjected in a most belligerent way, 'That's disgraceful,' at the moment you made your ruling. You ought to bring him to order.
Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I invite you, after question time, to reconsider that point of order, on the ruling that has been made. I am inviting the President to reconsider his ruling that question out of order. The question asked was as to when the Assistant Treasurer became aware of a fact and whether it was before or after he became a minister. That was precisely the question—
Senator Brandis interjecting—