Senate debates

Tuesday, 4 February 2020


Canavan, Senator the Hon. Matthew

9:39 pm

Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

I wish to place a matter on the public record today in relation to a membership I've not previously declared. I currently have a supporters membership with the North Queensland Cowboys. This membership entitles me to the membership of the Cowboys Leagues Club. In November 2019, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility provided notice of an investment decision to the Cowboys Rugby League Football Ltd. Investment decisions are a matter for the independent NAIF board. My membership at the leagues club provided no interest in the management of the football club. As the former minister for Northern Australia, I note that the NAIF Act only provides limited criteria for which the minister for northern Australia may reject a decision. None of these criteria were triggered by this decision. I have sought further advice about this failure to declare a membership. I do not believe at this stage it was a breach of the Statement of Ministerial Standards, and I've taken the first available opportunity to place this matter on the record. I'll do the same in the Senate for the Senate registrar in due course.

12:03 pm

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to make a short statement.

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

Leave is granted for one minute.

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

It's very disappointing that it has been necessary to hear from Senator Canavan on this matter on a day that is supposed to be devoted to the victims of the bushfires, but we need to be clear about how serious this matter is. Senator Canavan has confirmed that he had an undeclared membership of a club which received a loan from an agency within his ministerial responsibility. The Prime Minister has made it clear that failure to declare membership of a club that received a grant under a program within her ministerial responsibility was a breach of her ministerial standards and the very reason that Senator McKenzie had to resign from the cabinet. The same standard must apply consistently to all ministers. If Senator McKenzie was not able to return to cabinet for breaching ministerial standards, Senator Canavan should not be able to either. We will take the opportunity at another time, a more appropriate time, to discuss this matter in more detail. We should note that Senator Canavan also has disclosure obligations to the Senate as well as to the Prime Minister, and it appears he may have failed to meet these obligations as well.