Monday, 10 September 2018
Questions without Notice
Minister for Home Affairs
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Paragraph 55 of the Cabinet Handbook requires ministers to 'declare any private interests of which they are aware'. It says:
This can include pecuniary interests, held by them or by members of their immediate family, which may give rise to a conflict with their public duties.
And this is my only question: on how many occasions has Minister Dutton declared to cabinet his interest in childcare centres?
Senator Marshall is quite right that it is incumbent on us to make a relevant declaration of private interests, not just in relation to ourselves but also in relation to our close family members. All ministers are expected to comply with that requirement. In terms of the specifics, I'd have to take that on notice.
I again refer to the Cabinet Handbook, which states that, after a minister declares a conflict of interest:
It is then open to the Chair of the meeting to excuse a minister from the discussion or to agree expressly to his or her taking part.
On how many occasions has Minister Dutton absented himself from or been excused from cabinet meetings as a result of his interest in childcare centres?
I've already indicated to the senator that yes, indeed, all ministers are required to provide appropriate declarations of their private interests, including the private interests of any close family members, and all ministers comply with that requirement. In terms of the specifics that Senator Marshall is asking about, I would have to see whether there's anything else by way of additional information.
Reports indicate that after declaring his interest in childcare centres Minister Dutton proceeded to offer comment on the childcare industry from the point of view of operators. This recollection has been endorsed by a second minister. How is it appropriate for Minister Dutton to influence cabinet decisions of direct benefit to himself?
Firstly, I don't comment on cabinet deliberations and I don't comment on any anonymous reports. What I would say is that all ministers have to comply with the requirements to declare their private interests, consistent with the Cabinet Handbook, and I'm very confident that Minister Dutton has done so.