Wednesday, 13 February 2019
Questions without Notice
Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. I refer to new evidence in relation to the unauthorised leaking of a Federal Police raid on the Australian Workers' Union offices that discloses Minister Cash's then chief of staff was the source of the leak. Minister Cash's then senior media adviser, when deciding to leak advance notice of police raids, was motivated by an intention to damage the Leader of the Opposition's reputation. The office of the then Minister for Justice was advised prior to the raids commencing by Minister Cash's office, and Minister Cash's then senior media adviser worked with the then Minister for Justice's media adviser to leak the raids to the media. In light of these revelations, has Mr Morrison sought and received assurances from Minister Cash that her statements to the Senate and all of her public statements have provided a full and frank account of her involvement in this affair?
Firstly, the Prime Minister has full confidence in Minister Cash. Minister Cash has been entirely forthright in her public statements in relation to those matters, and, indeed, as she has indicated on a number of occasions, has provided answers to questions based on her personal state of knowledge at that time. Yesterday, in response to questions, Minister Cash again indicated that she stood by those statements. Of course, we also know that this is a matter that is currently before the courts, and, as such, it wouldn't be appropriate for the government to comment any further.
As I have already indicated in answer to the first question, the Prime Minister has full confidence in Minister Cash. In relation to some of the other matters that Senator Wong raises, I have absolutely full confidence in Senator Cash. In relation to some of the other—
The point of order is on direct relevance. I assume my colleague Senator Cormann was getting to it. The question was whether or not the actions were appropriate and within the law. Is that the Prime Minister's belief?
On the point of order, the minister had been speaking for 15 seconds. I will listen carefully, but it sounded to me like he was coming directly to the points you raised. I can't instruct him how to answer the question, as long he's relevant to part of it.
Thank you very much, Mr President. Firstly, as I've already indicated on a number of occasions now, the Prime Minister has full confidence in Minister Cash. The second point I would make is that it is not consistent with standing orders to ask ministers to provide a legal opinion. The third point I would make is that, obviously, all of these matters that Senator Wong has canvassed are currently the subject of court hearings, which will test all of the evidence and which will make judgments at the end of that process. It is entirely—
Let me say it very slowly again for Senator Collins. No. 1: the Prime Minister has full confidence in Minister Cash. No. 2: I will not be providing legal opinions in relation to the matters that are currently— (Time expired)
My supplementary question—it is not a question about legal opinion; it is in relation to the Prime Minister's confidence—is this: is Mr Morrison confident that the actions of Minister Cash and her office align with the obligations for ministers under the Statement of Ministerial Standards to act 'through the lawful and disinterested exercise of the statutory and other powers available to their offices'?
Government senators interjecting—
The answer to that question is yes. The answer to that question is an absolute Y-E-S yes. There is nothing in the attempted smear and innuendo that Senator Wong and other senators have tried to throw around that in any way contradicts the statements that Senator Cash has made in Senate estimates or in the Senate chamber in relation to these matters. Others might from time to time be making other claims which are currently being tested through a court process. The Senate should be allowing the court process to take its course in the ordinary course of events. There will be a resolution at the end of that process. It wouldn't be appropriate for the government to provide a running commentary in relation to these proceedings.
Honourable senators interjecting—