Senate debates

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Questions without Notice

China

2:12 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Payne. In 2016, an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that many of China's claims to the South China Sea had no legal basis under international law. In 2016, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Bishop, called on the Philippines and China to abide by the ruling. Does this remain the government's position?

Photo of Marise PayneMarise Payne (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, the government has been clear in stating our position in relation to the South China Sea, which is a waterway of significant priority for Australia, as all senators would be aware. The senator has outlined a number of aspects in relation to that, with which we have concurred in the past, and that continues to be the case.

2:13 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Last night, Liberal member of parliament Gladys Liu, the member for Chisholm, failed on three occasions to back in the arbitral tribunal's ruling. Why?

Photo of Marise PayneMarise Payne (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

As Senator Wong, one assumes, with the benefit of media monitoring, would be well aware, the member for Chisholm has issued a statement on this matter today. She has been clear in relation to the issues that were raised. She began her statement by saying:

Last night, in a TV interview, I was not clear and I should have chosen my words better. As a new member of Parliament, I will be learning from this experience.

Australia's long-standing position on the South China Sea is consistent and clear. We do not take sides on competing territorial claims but we call on all claimants to resolve …

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Senator Wong on a point of order?

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

A point of order on direct relevance.

Photo of Marise PayneMarise Payne (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

You can't be serious.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm very serious.

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That was exactly what Sam Dastyari said.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order, please! I would like to hear the point of order.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm glad you brought up that precedent, Senator Abetz.

An opposition senator: Exactly.

Exactly. Precisely.

An opposition senator: And you know what happened to him.

Honourable senators interjecting

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Can I hear the point of order, and then others will have the opportunity to contribute if they wish.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is: why? It's not a question of: what statement did she subsequently issue? My question is: why did she fail on three occasions to restate the government's position?

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

On the point of order, Senator Payne?

Photo of Marise PayneMarise Payne (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, on the point of order, the member for Chisholm's statement is perfectly clear. She indicates that in the interview she was not clear and that she should have chosen her words better.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

On the point of order, Senator Wong, you have reminded the minister of the question. I believe in this instance, with the statement the minister is making, that the minister is being directly relevant. There's an opportunity to debate questions and answers after question time, and I think that's the appropriate place if people are not satisfied with answers. Senator Payne, continue.

Photo of Marise PayneMarise Payne (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I think I was at the point of the member for Chisholm's statement that says:

We do not take sides on competing territorial claims but we call on all claimants to resolve disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Wong, a final supplementary question?

2:15 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

What steps has this minister taken to ensure that the member for Chisholm is a fit and proper person to sit in the Australian parliament?

Photo of Marise PayneMarise Payne (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

Any suggestion that that is not the case is offensive. The member for Chisholm was duly elected as the representative of the people of Chisholm in the last election.