Thursday, 1 August 2019
Questions without Notice
Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction
My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Cormann. In relation to his responsibilities as environment minister and to the meeting between Minister Taylor and members of the environment department, the Treasurer has said:
A meeting was sought by Angus to understand the technical aspects of the listing process …
… … …
A briefing was given and no changes have been made to the listing.
Was the Treasurer aware of the member for Hume's personal financial interest in the grasslands matter prior to agreeing to the briefing?
Obviously I can't give an answer in relation to the state of mind of another individual, but what we do know is that Mr Taylor at all times appropriately disclosed his private interests, consistent with the rules as they apply in the House of Representatives.
Yes. I go to relevance. I have asked specifically whether or not the Treasurer was aware of this. It is a question of fact, and the minister can't dismiss or ignore the direct question about the knowledge of the Treasurer at that time.
Honestly, this is just a continuation of this attempted smear by Labor. This is against a hardworking local member and hardworking minister. But the truth is that Minister Taylor has declared all of his interests, consistent with the requirements in the House of Representatives and consistent with the way interests are declared by those opposite. He also stood up for his constituents in pursuing a policy issue that had been raised with him by farmers across his electorate—indeed, as documented by National Farmers Federation in a widely publicised piece of correspondence.
It has been very clear, and no amount of smearing attempted by the Labor Party has been able to show, that Minister Taylor in any way raised matters that he shouldn't have raised. Minister Taylor has always made it clear that he did not raise compliance matters, as he shouldn't. The Labor Party, at no point, has been able to show that the minister was wrong in those statements.
Freedom-of-information documents reveal that, in April 2017, Minister Frydenberg's office requested advice from the environment department on whether the grasslands listing could be varied against advice, without publication and without being open to legal challenge. Why was this advice sought?
In relation to Minister Frydenberg's request for advice in April 2017 on whether the grasslands listing could be varied against advice, without publication and without being open to legal challenge, at whose request did the minister's office seek that advice? Can the minister guarantee that the request was not the result of representations by Minister Taylor?
Again, obviously, Senator McAllister—
Senator Wong interjecting—
No, no, I'm just answering. Senator McAllister clearly doesn't know how to address the question to the responsible minister, but in an abundance of helpfulness—
Mr President, the primary question and what the supplementaries are grounded on is a statement made by Mr Frydenberg. Therefore, it is entirely in order to address the question to the Minister representing Minister Frydenberg.
If I'm incorrect, I will come back to the chamber next time we sit, but a minister can be quizzed on a statement made, even if it is outside their portfolio. It is therefore, in my view, in order, even though it is a minister representing, for that minister to be asked a question about what the minister they're representing has said, even if it is outside their portfolio—with the necessary limitation, obviously, as Senator Cormann said, that they are limited in what they can say about someone else's thoughts.
Let me just say, whether it was Senator Watt or Senator McAllister who asked a question of the wrong minister, I would have made the same point, so I object to that interjection of 'mansplaining' before.
On this point of order, could I just clarify too that that second supplementary only referred to advice sought by the Minister for the Environment. Obviously, Senator Cormann is not representing the Minister for the Environment. I took your overall ruling there, Mr President, as going to the question as a whole, but the second supplementary was only in reference to advice sought by the Minister for the Environment, whom Minister Cormann is obviously not representing at the moment.
The assertion was made that it was about a statement. Firstly, I will take that at face value. Secondly, the second supplementary did use words that were contained in the first supplementary. On that basis, I do allow a supplementary to follow on in that regard, in referring to a statement earlier.
In any event, given that this is something that is squarely in the portfolio responsibility of the Minister for the Environment, I will receive the appropriate advice from the Minister for the Environment and come back to the chamber.