Thursday, 5 December 2019
Questions without Notice
Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction
My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Emissions Reduction, Senator Birmingham. Media reports have named a staffer to Minister Taylor as the source of the doctored travel costs used in official ministerial correspondence. Did Minister Taylor's staffer, who is named in these reports, have any role in the preparation of the document?
Senator Cormann made a very appropriate invitation to the Labor Party—that as the opposition, as a political party in this parliament, they may occasionally like to think of policy issues rather than just political smear. But here we are, less than a minute after Senator Cormann sat down, and Senator Watt bobs up and off he goes with yet more smear and innuendo.
As I told the chamber the other day, Mr President, the opposition asked for an independent police investigation into this matter—
Labor initiated an investigation, and it is an investigation that should be allowed to take course independently. The question absolutely related to the police investigation, which Labor initiated. In any event, there's a longstanding convention on both sides of politics that we do not drag individual staff into these matters.
Senator Wong interjecting—
You might want to check what Senator Faulkner used to say on the Hansard record in relation to these matters
Order! On the point of order, the earlier comments of the minister were probably not directly relevant, but I note he has now turned to the issue at hand. I'm not yet willing to rule that what he's saying is not directly relevant, but I'm listening very carefully because he has turned to the subject matter of the question. Senator Birmingham.
Thank you, Mr President. The accusation in the media that Senator Watt's question is based upon is clearly related to the police investigation that the Labor Party have requested. This is an independent police investigation. The government is not going to compromise it in any way. We've indicated we will cooperate with it. I'm certainly not going to speculate, based on media reports, about matters that are the subject of that police investigation.
Once again I point out to the Senate that Minister Taylor has been clear all along that the document was downloaded from the City of Sydney website. So I reject the assertion based on Senator Watt's question based on the statement Minister Taylor has made. In relation to the staff member in question, you do have to wonder why the Labor Party went down the path of writing to the police and asking for this investigation if they now want to come into the chamber and conduct the investigation themselves via Senate question time. Why won't they just let the New South Wales Police do their job?
How long has Minister Taylor known that his own staffer was the source of the doctored documents? How long has he known this and stayed silent when he was asked about this repeatedly in the House of Representatives?
Once again I point Senator Watt to the assurance that Minister Taylor has made in relation to the source of the documents being that they were downloaded from the City of Sydney website. Again, I refer Senator Watt to the reality that this matter is subject to an independent police investigation and they ought let that investigation do its job independently without the interference of the Labor Party.