Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Suspension of Standing Orders
Subject to contingent notice of motion, I move:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended to allow consideration of the measure contained in motion 883.
This is a fairly straightforward proposition. It concerns the employment of the former associate secretary of the Department of Education, who has been engaged by the Commonwealth of Australia to undertake negotiations through this chamber on the matters relating to the higher education package that the former minister for education, Minister Pyne, had introduced to this chamber. I am particularly concerned because there have been reports of a very large sum of money being paid to Mr Griew, a former associate secretary of the department, to undertake negotiations with senators in this chamber. We have Senate estimates next week, and I think it is appropriate for the Senate to be able to examine the details of the contract and the report. I am particularly interested in the report that Mr Griew has provided to the government concerning his discussions with senators on behalf of the government.
It strikes me as a particularly serious matter. Under the Commonwealth of Australia, we have had for a very long time, and it is certainly my understanding, a view that Commonwealth officers should not act as contractors for the government immediately upon leaving their positions within the Public Service. And it seems to me that there is a serious issue there about the use of information which is procured through the operations of the Commonwealth Public Service—in this case, in the position of a senior officer as associate secretary—and then being engaged by the Commonwealth on a commercial contract to undertake negotiations on behalf of the government.
No, I did not. This is a very serious question about the misuse of contracting arrangements. I would like to see, and the reason I ask this is I think the Senate is entitled to see, the nature of the contract and the report that this former officer has provided to the government. Senate estimates are to be held next week and will provide us with the opportunity to examine in detail the claims that have been made regarding this matter.
I oppose the contingent motion and oppose the material motion of Senator Carr. The reason I did so is not because I oppose the release of documents; I normally support the release of documents and I think my voting record would confirm that unequivocally. The issue here is that it involves the release of a report primarily between the consultant engaged by the former minister for education and the crossbench. The crossbench has not seen the report—
You may not care about your discussions being put into the public domain, but, bear in mind, what goes around comes around.
I have no problem with the contract being released in the public domain, but I think it is just sheer decency that we—the people who are consulted by this consultant in the context of that engagement by the previous minister for education—at least know what on earth it is we are reported to have said when we made comments about people in this place, ministers and other members of the government—and even whether it was accurate or not. That is the purpose of opposing this. I think it is a perfectly legitimate expectation that we at least know what is coming before it is released.