Thursday, 14 February 2019
Questions to the President
Members of Parliament: Staff
by leave—Mr President, I woke up this morning to read about a very unedifying incident involving a senator and a staffer that occurred last night outside the Great Hall. I wonder what the role of the presiding officers is in investigating this, because it is of deep concern if alleged assaults can take place in this building without deep investigation? I wonder what your role is in this?
I have been in discussions with the Speaker this morning and those discussions continue. We will be looking into this matter as a matter of urgency. Just off the top of my head from what I've read in the media, there are issues that range from the use of media and recording, to claims of assault, to potential privilege issues about senators being able to go about their business in the building. At this stage, unless there is something in my office, I have received no formal information on it, but I will be chasing this up through the course of the morning and I plan on speaking to senators involved. If anyone would like to bring anything to my attention, I would encourage them to do so. We both regard this as a grave matter, for the reasons you outlined.
My initial instinct would be that if it was the case that I do not have the ability to say anything today, because there are potential legal issues that I don't want to prejudice, I will likely say something at estimates hearings on Monday, when I appear. I am conscious that I will restrain statements if there are potential legal issues involved, because I would not want to prejudice those. But I am not aware of the specific facts at the moment, other than media reports.