Thursday, 9 February 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is directed to the Minister for Defence, Senator Payne. When did the minister first become aware of the need for expansion of the Shoalwater Bay Training Area and Townsville Field Training Area as part of the military training agreement with Singapore? Was it before or after the 2 July election?
The signing of the memorandum of understanding with Singapore that set out the agreed parameters of the increased training access Australia would offer, on 13 October 2016, represented the formal agreement by both countries to the scale of the increased access Singapore would be offered. Following that signing, it was then possible for Defence to begin the process of obtaining a detailed master plan and getting that process underway, through which the precise requirements could be clarified, and to begin engaging with stakeholders.
When did the minister first become aware that the Department of Defence was considering compulsory land acquisition as a part of the expansion of the training areas? Was it before or after the 2 July election.
As I said in my previous answer, the details around acquisition of land were confirmed in the signing of the MOU with Singapore on 13 October 2016. That was the formal agreement by both countries to the scale of the increased access Singapore would be offered.
On relevance. The minister is avoiding the question. She was asked about her knowledge: when was she aware? When was she aware that the DOD was considering compulsory acquisition?
Relating to the point of order, Senator Wong persistently screams across the chamber at backbench senators. It is most disorderly. I understand that this is a robust chamber. I understand that a degree of badinage between both sides of the chamber is tolerable and acceptable. But the constant stream of screaming across the table by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate at coalition backbench senators is quite beyond what is tolerable parliamentary conduct.
Thank you, Mr President. I will not delay the Senate, but what an extraordinary response from Senator Brandis there. The screaming is coming from the Liberal Party backbench over to this side of the chamber. We put up with it every single question time, from Senator Macdonald to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. It is constant. It is every question. It is every day that we sit, and he is the one that should be brought to order.
Mr President, Senator Wong has a reputation, and has had ever since she became Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, of screaming shrilly across the chamber. I try to help her by bringing her to order. She ignores you, Mr President, and the sooner you can throw her out for her disobedience of the President the better the—
Thank you, Senator Cameron.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Order on both sides! It is a timely point now to remind all senators—and there is no innocence at any point in this chamber—that interjections are disorderly. Senator Brandis made a key point: that there are times during question time where robustness is tolerated, but to a minimum. Interjections have become a bit disorderly. Senator Cameron's point was that it is not up to other senators to advise senators how their behaviour should be conducted during question time, or other times for that matter. I would just ask all senators to consider their behaviour in the chamber. As I have mentioned before, we have the public watching us, as we do today, during live coverage of question time. We have people in the gallery, and often we have school groups here. I think our behaviour needs to be reflected upon and I ask all senators to consider that.
I thank senators for their contributions to the points of order. As for the substantive point of order raised by Senator Wong in relation to Senator Payne, Senator Payne, in fairness, was only a quarter of the way into her answer. I remind Senator Payne of the question.
I do not recall specifically how much of the response I started on, so I will commence again. It was the signing of the memorandum of understanding, which I believe I said before, with Singapore that set out the agreed parameters of the increased training access that Australia would offer on 13 October 2016 which represented the formal agreement by both countries—
In spite of your warning to all of us, including Senator Wong, she has immediately started interjecting on Senator Payne. Now, Mr President, I do ask that you do something about the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate—
Senator Wong interjecting—
and she is even doing it now.
Opposition senators interjecting—
I think I said the signing of the MOU with Singapore, which set out the agreed parameters of the increased training access that Australia would offer on 13 October 2016, which was the signing date, represented the formal agreement— (Time expired)
Unfortunately, we will have to probe a bit further to get an answer on that. What does the minister have to say to Mr Alf Collins, a landowner in the affected area, who yesterday told Queensland media, 'The same people that were on TV and radio saying what wonderful people they were for us have lied to us so many times. They have deceived us by omission; they have deceived us by silence'?
In fact, I heard part of Mr Collins's observations yesterday afternoon myself. I indicated at the time that, in contrast to those opposite and the approach they took to an issue like this some years ago, at Cultana in South Australia, where, six months before they decided to compulsorily acquire land, they published an advertisement in the local paper indicating to landowners that that would be the case, the Department of Defence on this occasion took the approach of communicating with local landholders, corresponding with them by mail and holding 76 meetings with 186 or so landowners and businesspeople during the period after the signing of the memorandum of agreement with Singapore, which was an entirely appropriate thing to do. It could hardly be dealt with before the signing of the memorandum of agreement with Singapore.