Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Payne. On 18 August Senator Wong wrote to the minister requesting comprehensive and detailed briefings for parliamentarians by relevant agencies on Australia's relationship with China. After receiving no response, Senator Wong formally reiterated the request last Friday. The request was made in the interests of ensuring all parliamentarians are well briefed to contribute to a necessary discussion about how we can make our relationship with China work for us. Will the government provide detailed and comprehensive briefings to parliamentarians as requested?
I thank Senator Kitching for her question. As I have said publicly previously, in responding to the statement made by the opposition—initially on, I think, the Insiders program on a Sunday morning—I am not persuaded that there is a need for the suggestion that those opposite have made. As we know, all members of parliament and senators, including those in the opposition, are able to join relevant committees such as the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security or the foreign affairs, defence and trade committees, all of which get extensive briefings from agencies. The shadow minister for foreign affairs is very well aware of that. She sat on those committees for years, although I do understand that, due to internal Labor arrangements at the moment, she is not currently on the PJCIS. That is the assessment that the government has made and the position that we've taken.
In this morning's Australian, the minister is quoted as saying, in respect of Australia's relationship with China, 'The PM and I are already leading a mature discussion.' Given the minister's website indicates her last public interview was 14 days ago, when did the minister last make even a cursory contribution to the discussion the minister claims to be leading?
I'd be more than happy to provide Senator Kitching with a copy of a number of media statements, transcripts, social media statements and contents of speeches on those matters. As those opposite are well aware, these are issues which need to be handled in an appropriate and mature way, and that is what the government is doing.
I understand the frustrations of being in opposition, and they are ones which we on this side are never keen to revisit. Frankly, that is why the results of 18 May are so important for the people of Australia. As I have said, very clearly, on a number of issues, including those which have been raised by the opposition, that is what the government is doing.