Thursday, 12 November 2020
Questions without Notice
Members of Parliament: Conduct
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In Senate estimates this week, it was revealed that the ABC managing director received half-a-dozen emails as well as phone calls from staff of government ministers questioning the airing of the Four Corners program 'Inside the Canberra bubble'. It was also revealed that other ABC staff and the ABC Board were contacted by government representatives about the program. Who contacted the ABC Board and management? When did the Prime Minister or his office first become aware that ministerial staff had contacted the ABC Board and management about the Four Corners program?
Perhaps in this question, the minister could take those answers on notice. Senators Stoker and Henderson asked a series of questions at Senate estimates designed to undermine the legitimacy of the Four Corners report and the ABC. Can the minister guarantee that no member of the Prime Minister's office or any other ministers' offices directed or assisted Senators Stoker and Henderson?
That is quite a remarkable allegation coming from Senator Watt, seeking to cast judgement on questions asked by senators, seeking to cast judgement on or impugn the motives for questions asked at estimates by other senators. Of all the people to seek to judge when it comes to Senate estimates behaviour! We're not going to take any lectures from Senator Watt. We're not going to take lectures about standards of conduct in Senate estimates from Senator Watt.
Government senators interjecting—
Senator Watt, you know the question had a lot more than that in it. And, I might say, I will ask people to carefully reflect on the wording of questions when imputing motives to other senators asking questions, as opposed to attributing them to a potential effect of asking questions. I didn't call you up on that, but I think that came perilously close to imputing a motive to the actions of another senator in performing their duties as a senator. Now, there was a lot in that question, and the minister is more than directly relevant in responding.
I would be very surprised if Senator Watt, who asks a lot of Senate estimates questions—and good on him for doing so—has never had a conversation with his leader or his leader's office or other shadow ministers or other colleagues or people outside of this building. Senators come and ask questions in Senate estimates— (Time expired)
The ABC managing director took on notice a question to table the emails that were sent to the ABC by government representatives in relation to the Four Corners program. Can the minister guarantee that there has been no intimidation of ABC staff, or threats to the ABC or its funding, by the government in relation to this program?
The minister has concluded his answer, Senator Wong. There can't be a point of order—
Senator Wong interjecting—
Order! Senator Wong, please!
Honourable senators interjecting—
Order! Senators Watt and Wong and Rennick! Senator Chandler is on her feet and she is going to have the call.
Senator Wong interjecting—
Senator Wong, please! I've asked you several times. I asked Senator Rennick too, but I was calling you before he started interjecting. Senator Chandler.