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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5545


Mr PERRETT (3:28 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation and the Minister representing the Special Minister of State. Why is it important that registered political parties run stable and coherent candidate selection processes?


Mr Hockey interjecting


The SPEAKER —I remind the member for North Sydney of his status in the House. Given that he was delaying the Manager of Opposition Business, his interjection seems strange. The Manager of Opposition Business has the call.


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The standing orders are quite clear that a minister can be asked questions about matters within their ministerial responsibilities. Candidate selection could not possibly be within the responsibilities of the Minister for Finance and Deregulation. I respectfully ask you to rule the question out of order.


Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker—


Mr Keenan interjecting


The SPEAKER —The Leader of the House will resume his seat. One of the interesting things about the Australian parliament is that it actually has two houses! Sometimes ministers with direct responsibility for matters are in the Senate, but there are ministers representing those ministers in this place, and I am pretty sure of my recollection that it is the Minister for Finance and Deregulation for the matters contained in the question.


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on the point of order: it is certainly true that in the past the minister for finance or the Special Minister of State has been asked questions about donations to political parties within their responsibilities. But it is without precedent for the minister for finance or the Special Minister of State to be asked to comment about candidate selection, whether for their own party or for another political party, and I respectfully put it to you that this would be a bridge too far and that therefore you rule the question out of order.


Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, on the point of order: this is a question to the minister for finance, representing the Special Minister of State. He is entitled to answer the question. The question is in order and I am absolutely certain that the answer will be.


Mr Broadbent —Mr Speaker, on the point of order: the question should be ruled out of order because the government did not say that it was directed to Minister Tanner in regard to his role representing the Special Minister of State.

Government members—Yes, he did.


Mr Broadbent —He did not say that.

Government members—He did say that.


Mr Broadbent —No, he did not say that.


The SPEAKER —Order! Given the amount of noise that was in the chamber for the first part—

An opposition member—No, no, no.


The SPEAKER —Well, you can go ‘no, no, no’ all you like. The member for Moreton went on to finalise the question, but there was so much noise I would have been happy for him to start again. I think people ought to get back to what now is the more important aspect of the complaints that are being made, because I think that it is acknowledged that the minister for finance can answer questions on behalf of the Special Minister of State.


Mr Tuckey —Mr Speaker, on a further point of order—


The SPEAKER —No, on this point of order.


Mr Tuckey —Well, the point of order is that I refer you to page 125 of the standing orders and the rights of persons not present in this place to protect themselves from scandalous allegations under privilege, and I hope you will make careful consideration of the remarks now anticipated.


The SPEAKER —That may go to matters that might be traversed in the answer; so, if you are firing a warning shot across the bows, it is not quite the time to do it.


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I hear what you have said so far on this matter. I would point out to you that in standing order 98(c) it says:

A Minister can only be questioned on the following matters, for which he or she is responsible or officially connected:

(i)   public affairs;

(ii)   administration; or

(iii)   proceedings pending in the House.

I put it to you that, even if the Minister for Finance and Deregulation was being asked this question in place of the Special Minister of State, whom he represents in the House of Representatives, the Special Minister of State could not be asked this question because it is a question about candidate selection. The Special Minister of State would not be entitled to answer this question, either in this House or in the Senate. Therefore, I put it to you, Mr Speaker, how can it be relevant for the minister for finance to be asked a question that the minister he represents in this chamber could not be asked?


Mr McMullan —Mr Speaker, on the point of order—


Mr Pyne —Are you still here?


The SPEAKER —The parliamentary secretary will resume his seat.


Mr Pyne interjecting


The SPEAKER —Well, it is not a matter of you deciding when and where you can withdraw, Member for Sturt. You are under a warning. You have been given leniency. The member for Sturt will leave the chamber, under the provisions of standing order 94(a), for one hour.

The member for Sturt then left the chamber.


The SPEAKER —The parliamentary secretary, on the point of order.


Mr McMullan —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am aware of the precedents with regard to this matter because they arise from rulings on points of order I raised when I was Manager of Opposition Business in the House. The then Speaker rejected my claim and said the now Leader of the Opposition, when he was Minister representing the Special Minister of State, could answer questions about the internal affairs of political parties on the pretext that they related to a registered political organisation. He did it every day for weeks.


Mr Oakeshott —Mr Speaker, on the point of order: I just happened to be reading the Charter of Budget Honesty: costing election commitments document under the portfolio of the minister in question, and it does, in the summary page, make reference to the costing of publicly announced commitments by only the government and the opposition. Minor parties and Independents are not part of that consideration. While there is therefore, unfortunately, a rule for two and not for everyone, the question should surely be considered in order.


The SPEAKER —The member for Lyne will resume his seat.

Honourable members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! The House will come to order. The question referred to registered political parties. Based on the precedents that have been used in this House, I will allow the question.


Mr Andrews —Mr Speaker, on a point of order, there are two points. Firstly, as I and all those on this side can recall, there was no reference in the words of the member for Moreton to ‘registered political parties’. Secondly—

Honourable members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order!


Mr Billson —Lindsay doesn’t even know where he’ll be enrolled!


The SPEAKER —The member for Dunkley will leave the chamber, under the provisions of standing order 94(a), for one hour.

The member for Dunkley then left the chamber.


Mr Andrews —Secondly and more significantly, in order for this question to be in order it must relate specifically to legislation or a regulation which is administered by the Special Minister of State. The preselection processes of political parties are not matters which are subject to either regulation or legislation administered by the Special Minister of State and therefore this question must be ruled out of order.


The SPEAKER —I have ruled it in order.


Mr TANNER (Minister for Finance and Deregulation) —I thank the member for Moreton for his question. It is extremely important that registered political parties have stable and coherent candidate selection processes in order to enable Australian voters to know who they might be voting for, to become acquainted with individual candidates so they can exercise genuine choice. Unfortunately, as the string of points of order have just indicated, there are serious problems with these processes in the Queensland Liberal National Party. First we had the member for Dickson scuttling away to McPherson to try to become their candidate there. He was rejected. Then he went back to Dickson. And more recently we have had the member for Ryan disendorsed by the Liberal Party—


Mr Andrews —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. This answer is now clear evidence, for the reasons I put to you earlier, that this question should be ruled out of order. This has got nothing to do with the administration—


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Menzies will resume his seat. Firstly, I have ruled the question in order. Secondly, the answer of the minister is relevant to that question.


Mr Tuckey —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The opening remarks of the minister contravene standing order 90, ‘Reflections on members’. If he wants to move a substantive order, I’ll move one on him—


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for O’Connor will resume his seat.


Mr TANNER —It is a matter of public record that the member for Ryan has been disendorsed by the Liberal Party. It is also a matter of public record that their candidate for Wright, Hajnal Ban, has recently been disendorsed. And of course there is speculation regarding the candidate for Forde, Bert van Manen—published in the Courier-Mail today. He is under threat of disendorsement with local party members moving a motion to disendorse him, and a senior Liberal National Party source was quoted as describing him as ‘safe for now’. We all know what ‘safe for now’ means. Clearly they are setting themselves up for another disendorsement. I note that the Gold Coast Bulletin indicates that the next candidate for preselection, the next cab off the rank, for the seat of Wright will be a certain Bob La Castra, a former scriptwriter for Bananas in Pyjamas. Given the opposition’s problems with policy development, I think that is an ideal candidate for the Liberal National Party. He could write some pretty good policies.

It is not only this side of the House that is concerned by those problems. The Courier-Mail in its editorial today has referred to a ‘crisis of faith’ in the Liberal National Party and described the party as a ‘rabble’. The Australian in its editorial has referred to ‘the forest of deadwood MPs and senators’, ‘a batch of dud candidates’, ‘a team of time-servers’ and ‘the amateurish, insular world of LNP politics’. Former member for Longman and former minister Mal Brough described the situation thus: ‘Queenslanders have a right to feel let down, disappointed and led up the garden path. There is no Liberal or National with a federal focus for them to support.’

It appears that there is more to come because the candidate for Longman for the Liberal National Party, one Wyatt Roy, appears also to be under threat of disendorsement. Recently in an interview on 4BC, within the one interview he managed to claim that both sides of politics supported the invasion of Iraq, which of course is not true. He then said that he did not know which year this invasion occurred. He then said that the Liberal National Party did not have a policy on child support. When asked for the party’s policy on asylum seekers he said, ‘Well as we have said, we will turn back the boats, we will … ah … go through the process of turning them into legitimate … ah … arrivals and we will begin to look at that … how we go about doing that.’

So they clearly have a state of extreme confusion. And the problem for Mr Wyatt Roy is that he has been effusively endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition. The reason that is a problem is because the member for Ryan was previously effusively endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition, and Hajnal Ban was also effusively endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition—shortly before being disendorsed. The Leader of the National Party has even described Mr Roy as a future prime minister. Those of us who know the Leader of the National Party can probably understand that because most of the people he encounters probably look like future prime ministers to him.

There is a very serious aspect to this. The Australian people deserve better than this rabble. They deserve better than the chaos that is occurring in the Liberal National Party in Queensland because people are entitled to understand who they are being asked to vote for, to become acquainted with them, to hear what they have got to say and to know what they are on about. They are being denied that opportunity in Queensland. The Liberal National Party in Queensland is demonstrating yet again the merit of Bob Hawke’s old saying, ‘If you cannot govern yourselves, you cannot govern the country.’


Mr Rudd —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.