Monday, 19 June 2017
Questions without Notice
Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, Minister for Health and Minister for Sport, Minister for Human Services
My question is to the Attorney-General. Attorney, I refer to comments made by three of your colleagues in The Australiannewspaper last week which resulted in them being called before the Victorian Supreme Court to show course as to why they should not be charged with contempt. I also refer you to comments made by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who told 3AW:
… yes they are ministers in my government, they are Members of Parliament but they are also citizens of Victoria and residents of Victoria …
Attorney, can you confirm that your three colleagues' comments were not relevant to their ministerial portfolios, that they were not reflecting the government's position on sentencing in Victorian courts and that they were, therefore, speaking as private citizens, as the Prime Minister implied?
Before I call the Attorney-General, I will indicate that there are some matters that the Attorney may wish not to respond to but there are some matters which are certainly relevant for him to respond to which do not affect the situation that is currently before the court. I will leave that for the Attorney-General to determine.
Senator McKim, I do not for a moment accept the interpretation or construction that you have placed on the Prime Minister's remark. In any event, the matter is, as you acknowledge, before the court and in those circumstances it would not be appropriate for me to comment.
Attorney, I remind you that I am not asking you in any way about what the court ought to do. I have been very careful not to do that. Can you give any other examples of similar situations where people who found themselves before the courts because of what they had said or done as private citizens—
Thank you. I doubt we are going to get anywhere on this, Mr President, given the Attorney's refusal to address the issue, but I am going to ask it anyway. Can the Australian taxpayers expect to pay, through their taxes, for the Solicitor-General to represent a minister who is challenging a parking fine?
I am sorry, but I simply do not understand the reference to a parking fine. The Solicitor-General is remunerated by a salary. He is not paid by a fee, if that is what you are getting at. But in any event for the reasons I have already indicated I do not propose to comment on any aspect of these proceedings.