Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Minister for Employment
I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 645 standing in my name for today, relating to the statement by Senator Cash.
I move the motion as amended:
(1) That the Senate—
(a) notes the claim for public interest immunity that the Minister for Employment (Senator Cash) has made relating to matters concerning the raid by the Australian Federal Police on the offices of the Australian Workers Union;
(b) further notes that Odgers' Australian Senate Practice states that 'for this ground to be invoked it should be established that there are investigations in progress by a law enforcement agency, such as the police, and the provision of the information sought could interfere with those investigations' and 'this is a matter for the law enforcement agency concerned to assess, this ground should normally be raised directly by the law enforcement agency, not by some other official who can merely speculate about the relationship of the information to the investigation';
(c)notes the Minister for Employment also asserted that it was not possible to provide answers to questions on the basis of the sub judice convention;
(d)further notes that Odgers' Australian Senate Practice states that 'the sub judice convention applies to proceedings in committees, but not so as to prevent an inquiry which the Senate has directed' and that it 'is a restriction on debate which the Senate imposes upon itself, whereby debate is avoided which could involve a substantial danger of prejudice to proceedings before a court, unless the Senate considers that there is an overriding requirement for the Senate to discuss a matter of public interest';
(e)reaffirms the values contained in section 10 of the Public Service Act 1999, in particular subsection (5) concerning impartiality, which states that 'The APS is apolitical and provides the Government with advice that is frank, honest, timely and based on the best available evidence'.
(2) That the Minister for Employment (Senator Cash) be required to attend the Senate at 9.30 am on Thursday, 7 December 2017 to make a statement of not more than 20 minutes, addressing:
(a) why the Senate should accept the Minister's claims of public interest immunity and sub judice; and
(b) her competence to administer her portfolio responsibilities given:
(i) she has presided over the resignation of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (Mr Hadgkiss) for breaching the law he was supposed to uphold,
(ii) she has presided over the resignation of the Australian Building and Construction Commission Deputy Commissioner (Mr Southall) in order 'to totally disassociate himself from the conduct of Mr Hadgkiss',
(iii) there are questions over whether without a proper assessment of the grounds for his defence, the Minister approved taxpayers paying almost half a million dollars for Mr Hadgkiss to drag out his defence for more than 12 months before admitting breaching the Fair Work Act, and
(iv) she has lost an adviser for leaking a federal police investigation to the media, which has resulted in an Australian Federal Police investigation into her office's conduct.
(3) That any senator may move a motion to take note of the Minister for Employment's statement and any such motion may be debated for no longer than 1 hour, and have precedence over all other government business until determined.
The minister has answered hours of questioning about this matter through the Senate estimates process and has outlined the events in question in detail.
Question agreed to.