Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Burke, Mr Donald William; Order for the Production of Documents
That is correct.
I move the motion as amended:
(a) the Senate notes that:
(i) in December 2016, the celebrity gardener Mr Don Burke appeared in a Facebook video with the then Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Joyce), discussing favourably the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority from Canberra to the Minister's electorate, and
(ii) this video is no longer available;
(b) the Senate further notes that:
(i) allegations of long-term sexual harassment and abuse against prominent identities raise serious concerns about the culture of silence that has been allowed to prosper in the media industry,
(ii) the decision of any Government minister to associate with media identities facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment and abuse would call into question their capacity to responsibly execute their ministerial responsibilities,
(iii) scrubbing one's social media of references to figures facing allegations of sexual harassment and abuse would represent an acknowledgement that the association was inappropriate in the first place, and
(iv) any member of the Government who chooses to associate with a figure whose alleged behaviour was, to quote one report, 'an open secret for years', cannot, for their own benefit, pick and choose when to withdraw that association; and
(c) there be laid on the table by the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, by no later than 6.30 pm on 8 December 2017:
(i) any documents produced by, with, or featuring celebrity gardener Mr Burke from 1 November 2016,
(ii) any advice provided to the Minister by the Department relating to social media featuring Mr Burke since 1 November 2016 and prior to 4 December 2017,
(iii) any documents relating to social media featuring the Minister and Mr Burke since 1 November 2016 and prior to 4 December 2017, and
(iv) any related documents.
Allegations of sexual harassment and abuse are serious. Neither the minister nor the department was aware of allegations about Don Burke before recent media reports. Making unfounded and incorrect assertions about ministers is disrespectful. The government agrees to table documents from the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources for the period between 1 November 2016 and prior to 4 December 2017 by 5 pm on 8 December as follows: (a) documents produced by, with or featuring Don Burke; (b) advice provided to the minister by the department relating to social media featuring Don Burke; (c) documents relating to social media featuring the minister and Don Burke.
I would like to foreshadow that the opposition will seek to have the vote on this motion split. We would like to vote on paragraphs (a) and (b) together and separate paragraph (c) of this motion. I seek leave to make a short statement.
Labor does support the call in the motion to have the documents relating to the interactions between the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and Mr Don Burke released. I do understand that these documents can and will be provided by the government by 6.30 pm on 8 December; however, it is important that the part of this motion that deals with the order for production of documents passes and compels the minister to follow through on this agreement. While Labor does not and will never defend gender based discrimination, harassment, abuse and assault, a summary motion in the Senate is not an appropriate way to deal with these matters—not for victims, not for reformers and certainly not as a means to respond to perpetrators.