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Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Page: 6791

Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsCabinet Secretary and Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (17:49): They are very specific questions that have just been asked by the member for Mackellar. Before going to them, I had not quite completed my answer in relation to the Ombudsman, in respect of whom I need to point out that he is a statutory office holder. I certainly will take the more detailed questions that the member for Mackellar asked about the Ombudsman on notice and will endeavour to get a response to the member for Mackellar in a timely fashion.

At the moment the portfolio budget statement indicates, as the member for Mackellar said—and I have checked this—that there is a $900,000 measure to be funded from internal sources, so I will take those on notice. In respect of the detailed questions about the Australian National Audit Office, the Auditor-General is also a statutory office holder. Insofar as those questions relate to that statutory office holder, I will take them on notice as well. But the detailed questions that were asked about the NBN are misdirected and really need to be directed to the communications portfolio. I am sure that the member for Mackellar has means available in which she can so direct.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet does provide the Prime Minister with policy advice on matters that relate to the National Broadband Network, but the implementation of the National Broadband Network is the responsibility of NBN Co., its shareholder ministers and their respective departments, which are Senator Conroy and his Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, and Senator Wong and her Department of Finance and Deregulation. It is the case that senior officials from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet attend the National Broadband Network implementation steering committee, which covers a range of departments. But the kind of detailed financial questions relating to the NBN really should be directed to the department of communications.

To conclude—insofar as there is some information being sought in relation to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet appropriation—the government, through the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, engaged the investment bank Greenhill Caliburn in November 2010 to review the NBN Co. corporate plan. The cost of that engagement was $1.1 million including GST, plus about $8,000 in expenses.

The other question the member for Mackellar asked, as best as I understood it, was about the current status of the negotiations with Malaysia—with some quite pejorative and needlessly, but typically, inflammatory statements made about this area of policy which I do not accept for a moment. I need to make it clear that, in answering this question, I reject entirely the way in which it was framed and put and the language used by the member for Mackellar, including her use of the word 'disgraceful'. The only thing which is disgraceful about the discussion of the negotiations with Malaysia is the way in which the opposition is approaching this question. There are advanced negotiations with Malaysia and with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Those discussions are progressing well. The talks are being conducted in a spirit of great goodwill. It is a very detailed arrangement. It is very important that we get it right. As the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has said, further details will be announced in the coming weeks. Our government is committed to breaking the people smugglers business model and to deterring people from making dangerous sea journeys so that we will not have a repetition of the tragic event that occurred on Christmas Island late last year.

While we are talking about 'disgraceful', what is actually disgraceful is that the member for Cook is now saying that he is going to visit Malaysia. It is apparent that the Leader of the Opposition is so worried that the arrangement with Malaysia is going to work and work well that he is sending the member for Cook for another stunt—another dumb stunt, I might say—to Kuala Lumpur in a deliberate attempt to wreck the current negotiations, and, indeed, while they are about it, to wreck our relations with Malaysia. It is a disgraceful act. It is an incredibly destructive stunt by the opposition and it amazes me that anyone who is contending for national leadership in this country, as is the Leader of the Opposition, would authorise one of his spokespeople to go to one of our regional neighbours for this purpose. (Time expired)