Thursday, 14 February 2019
Questions without Notice
Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education
My question is to the Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education, Senator Cash. I refer to the Australian Federal Police investigation into the leaking of advanced notice of independent police raids of the Australian Workers' Union offices to the media. Can the minister assure the Senate that she gave a full and frank account of her knowledge and involvement in this affair to the Australian Federal Police?
Given evidence given under oath by her former senior media adviser in the Federal Court directly contradicts previous public statements made by the minister, has the minister undertaken appropriate due diligence to review her statements to the Australian Federal Police, to other authorities, to Prime Minister Turnbull, to Mr Morrison and this parliament, to ensure her statements are a true and accurate record of her knowledge and involvement in this affair? (Time expired)
Any statements I made were based on the information that I held at the time. But I would also say to Senator Collins, as I've said already many times in this chamber, you are presenting me with evidence that I am not able to verify and therefore cannot comment on.
Given the minister has failed to give a full and frank account of her knowledge and involvement in this affair to the Australian Federal Police and has refused to answer questions in this parliament on the basis of ongoing legal proceedings again today, will the minister rule out relying on parliamentary privilege when she appears to give evidence to the Federal Court? And if not, is there any forum where the minister will tell the truth?
I rise on a point of order. I appreciate that Senator Collins or her advisers would have drafted the supplementary before the answer was given but that is not actually a supplementary question in the context of the answers provided by the minister because you are making the precise opposite assertion to what the minister actually said in her primary answer. And you are asserting something that is 180 degrees different to what the minister said in response to the primary question.
On the point of order, we have not been satisfied that a full and frank answer has been provided by the minister on this matter. I have asserted that in the supplementary question. It is directly related to the question that I asked.
I rise on a point of order and, Mr President, perhaps you could deal with both of them together. Senator Collins made an imputation against the character of another senator and she should be made to withdraw that suggestion of 'telling the truth this time'.
On the point of order, there is no use of unparliamentary language that I can immediately recall—my handwriting is pretty bad, writing it down. I will reflect to see if there is any imputation that is covered by the standing orders. I didn't hear one. However, in responding to this supplementary question, which must be relevant to a previous question or previous answer given—and I do believe it to be relevant to a previous question asked—the minister is entirely in order to challenge the assertion made in the question and that would be directly relevant. I don't believe it rules it out of order. But the minister is free to address the assertion and be entirely in order, even if it is not the answer that the asker would request. Senator Cash.