Monday, 29 July 2019
Questions without Notice
Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Senator Birmingham. I refer to Minister Taylor's claim that the EPBC listing affecting his own interests had the potential to affect 'thousands of farmers in his electorate'. Can the minister confirm that there is only one compliance case under investigation in the region?
I would refer the honourable senator to the statement given by the member for Hume in the House earlier today, in which he steps through the representations he received in 2016 and 2017 and from farmers across his electorate and he steps through the communications he had with representative bodies of farmers as well, all of whom are outlining their concerns around this issue, and in outlining their concerns—
I'm well aware that the minister is trying to step through an awful lot at the moment, but the reality is that my question asked whether there was one compliance case under investigation in the region, and the minister has gone nowhere near that. In fact, he looks like he's going on a ramble in response to the minister's statement, not my question.
I'm listening carefully, Senator O'Neill. I believe at this stage the minister's dealing with this is relevant to the preamble before you asked that question. But I am listening carefully. Where you provided some context to your question, the minister is allowed to address that.
I'd also point out to the senator the statement that the member for Hume made. He's been clear, as he has on multiple occasions, that he has not engaged in discussions regarding compliance actions. What he has done is represent his electorate in relation to matters that have been brought to his—
The point of order is direct relevance. The question doesn't go to what the minister did. It is a question of this minister in representing the portfolio to confirm whether there is only one compliance case under investigation in the region. That is the only question.
You've restated the question, Senator Wong. I am listening very carefully. The minister's been speaking for 45 seconds. He is allowed to address the preamble as well. I'm listening carefully to ensure that something is directly relevant to part of the question. So, I'll call the minister to continue. He's now been reminded of it twice, by you and by Senator O'Neill.
As I pointed out to the senator, the member for Hume has outlined the representations he's received, the actions that he was taking on behalf of constituents. He has been clear that he has not been engaged in relation to any compliance matters. And if there is information in relation to further compliance matters, I will bring that to the chamber.
Yes, a point of order on direct relevance—and I'll take the interjection that he's been speaking for only seven seconds. We'll give you leave for an hour, mate, if you actually answer the question! How about that?
The question is not about company structures. The question is only requesting that this minister confirm that there is a single compliance and it relates to Minister Taylor's land.
In relation to compliance matters, Mr Taylor has been clear: he's never been engaged in relation to compliance matters. The Public Service has been clear: they've never been engaged in relation to compliance matters. And, through you, Mr President—'mate', Mr Taylor has been very clear in relation to the ownership and declaration of his ownerships, and I refer you very clearly to the statement that he made to the House on these matters.
Senator Wong, I'll take your observation. It is not up to the chair to direct a minister how to answer the question. That is a matter for debate subsequent to question time and for others to make judgements about. My only role here is: is the minister being directly relevant to the question? And in that case I believe the minister was, even if people didn't like the answer. Senator O'Neill, a final supplementary question.
Has the minister arranged a meeting for any other landlords under investigation by the department with the relevant minister's office, the department and members of the department's compliance unit, or is Mr Taylor the only landholder to receive that special treatment?
Government senators interjecting—
Mr Taylor has been very clear that he was representing constituents. He has outlined the timeline of receiving those representations and the actions that were taken. In relation to the representations and the meetings with departmental officers, he has equally been clear:
… an official writes in internal correspondence—
Which was released under FOI.
… that the meeting with me was, 'to answer questions on the technical aspects of the listing outcome,' and highlights that they would completely stay out of any compliance action underway. The official also writes, 'We will confine our discussion to the EPBC Act-listing process.'
They were the matters brought to the member for Hume's attention by his constituents. They were the matters that he raised on behalf of his constituents.