Senate debates

Monday, 10 September 2018

Questions without Notice

Members of Parliament: Conduct

2:24 pm

Photo of Kimberley KitchingKimberley Kitching (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Liberal MPs and senators have complained of bullying and intimidation throughout the week of the Liberal leadership chaos. Julia Banks has indicated that she will not recontest the seat of Chisholm, describing the events as 'the last straw'. Senator Reynolds told the Senate she was 'distressed and disturbed' by the behaviour and the Minister for Women has said:

It is clear to me that people were subject to threats and intimidation and bullying.

What action has the Prime Minister taken to address the complaints?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

Let me firstly make very clear, as the Prime Minister has, that there's absolutely no place for bullying as we engage with each other in this parliamentary democracy. There is a place for us to exchange views and to seek to persuade each other of the merits of our arguments in relation to policy and personnel, but we should always treat each other with courtesy and respect, and I know that that is a view shared by all of my colleagues.

As the Prime Minister has also indicated, there is, through our whips in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, a process available to anyone who is aggrieved about the way colleagues may have engaged with them in recent weeks, and he has strongly encouraged, and I would strongly encourage, any colleague with concerns to avail themselves of that process.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Kitching, a supplementary question?

2:25 pm

Photo of Kimberley KitchingKimberley Kitching (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In response to claims of bullying and intimidation, Liberal MP Craig Kelly said parliamentarians had to 'roll with the punches'. Does the Prime Minister regard this as an appropriate response?

2:26 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

As I've just indicated, all of us here are part of a parliamentary democracy. Obviously, a core function of the parliamentary democracy is for us to engage in, at times, robust debate across the chamber. I'm quite intrigued that the Labor Party would ask Senator Kitching to ask a question about bullying, given some of the views that have been expressed in the past about the way she has engaged in internal Labor Party democracy in times gone by. Indeed, the CFMEU

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Cormann, please resume your seat. Senator Wong, on a point of order?

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is about whether or not the Prime Minister thinks a response to bullying that says 'roll with the punches' is appropriate. The question had nothing to do with any of the issues that the minister, in a somewhat desperate attempt to deflect responsibility, is engaging with.

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll take the interjection about settling down, thank you, Senator McDonald. I'm very pleased—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Senator Wong, please resume your seat.

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Sit her down!

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Sit her down?

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

We shouldn't be taking interjections at any time, least of all during point of orders, nor should they be made, Senator Macdonald.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

Bullying is never appropriate in any workplace, and I look forward to Senator Kitching joining us on a unity ticket as we fight bullying on construction sites around Australia where the CFMEU seeks to bully hardworking Australians into submission. The truth is— (Time expired)

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Senators Wong and Macdonald! We are wasting time.

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator Cameron, please don't start off again. Senator Kitching, a final supplementary?

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

Senator Cameron and Senator McDonald, I have called you both to order on numerous occasions. Senator Kitching is on her feet. Please respect your colleagues.

2:28 pm

Photo of Kimberley KitchingKimberley Kitching (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Liberal member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch, has said in relation to those engaged in bullying and intimidation: 'I'm glad to see Lucy's prepared to stand up and name them, and I hope Julia does the same. I think they should be held accountable. I think it is totally inappropriate.' Does the Prime Minister agree with Mr Entsch?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

As I've already indicated, bullying is never acceptable. Bullying is not acceptable in this workplace, nor is it acceptable in any other workplace or, indeed, anywhere around Australia. The Prime Minister's statements and my statements in relation to these and others matters are very clear on that point. Senator Gichuhi and the member for Chisholm, Ms Banks, are valued colleagues, and I am sure that they will act according to their judgements.