Wednesday, 9 December 2020
McKenzie, Senator the Hon. Bridget
At the request of Senator Farrell, I move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(ii) since that submission was received by the committee, further evidence and public statements have raised serious questions regarding matters central to the inquiry, including the involvement of the Prime Minister and his office,
(iii) Senator McKenzie has been invited to appear before the committee several times but has declined to do so, and
(iv) as the former Minister for Sport, Senator McKenzie has evidence essential to the committee’s inquiry into the administration and award of funding under the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program; and
(b) directs Senator McKenzie to appear in person before the committee, by no later than 12 February 2021, to answer questions.
The government opposes Senator Farrell's motion. There's not been an occasion where the Senate has ordered a senator who wasn't a minister, including opposition or crossbench senators, to appear before a committee. This motion would be an unprecedented deviation from the practice in this area. On this matter, Senator McKenzie has cooperated with the Senate select committee and followed the practice by voluntarily providing the committee with a comprehensive submission.
I recognise this motion risks setting a precedent, but let it be understood that One Nation's support is not predicated on attacking backbenchers. This is about holding the minister at the time accountable for their actions while in high office. A director in the private sector cannot abdicate their responsibility by stepping down, and nor should a minister. Should motion No. 937 succeed today, it might encourage the Senate to look at debating this matter further to amend the standing orders.
The Greens are supporting this incredibly important motion so that we can hear from former Minister McKenzie, now Senator McKenzie, and learn some more information about just what went on with these sports rorts. It was a completely corrupt use of government funds to be supporting their election in 2019. It is very clear from the evidence that's been presented to the sports rorts committee that there was collusion between Senator McKenzie in her office—
It was clear from the evidence that was presented to our committee—the hundreds of emails and the colour-coded spreadsheets that passed between former Minister McKenzie's office and the Prime Minister's office—that there was involvement right across the Liberal Party, right up to the level of the Prime Minister and including the Liberal Party campaign offices. It is critical that the Senate, through this committee, is able to hear from former Minister McKenzie—
Mr President, on a point of order: given the contribution made by Senator Rice, who is a member of the committee investigating the matters that she traversed, she has clearly already determined the matter. I'm wondering as to the appropriateness of that and whether she should now be disqualified from the committee, having predetermined the matter and having made the pronouncement that certain actions were corrupt. One would assume, therefore, that no more hearings are required, and the committee can be wrapped up.
On the point of order: the matter for determination of membership of committees is a matter for the Senate. I'm not aware of any issue in the standings orders with respect to that, Senator Abetz. I will check. It's not one that I'm familiar with that's been raised before. I'll come back to the chamber if appropriate.