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Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Page: 6798


Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Mackellar) (18:22): The reason I raised the question of Malaysia was to specifically ask you whether or not the Ombudsman would be using part of his $900,000 earmarked money—which is not extra money but money taken away from other duties he might be doing—to make reports on each and every one of the disgraceful trades in human flesh of one asylum seeker going from Australia and our receiving five here in Australia. I ask whether the ones being sent to Malaysia are to be tagged like animals or subject to the birch. If you find that acceptable behaviour then that is a big difference between you and me, because I sure do not.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms S Bird ): I would just remind the member for Mackellar that she is not directing those questions to me as the chair. If you could direct them through the chair, that would be good.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: The parliamentary secretary, of course, has failed to answer that question. The second question he has failed to answer—and I have asked it, I think, three times now—is whether Mr Henry is still a member of the Public Service. I would like an answer to that question. If he is not, when did he leave the Public Service, and is his re-engagement as a contractor, even though the appointment is via section 67? I ask the parliamentary secretary to give me one name—just one—of any other political appointment or any appointment of a person to assist the Prime Minister out of a hole, which is exactly what this is. I can understand why the Prime Minister thinks she needs some additional advice, because she certainly cannot rely on the person who parades around as the Treasurer. She needs something to dig her out of the hole, so I can understand why they might seize on Mr Henry as being the answer. He served the government very well in the latter stages of his appointment, particularly when it came to assessing the budget savings that were put forward by the opposition prior to the last election.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: We have lost a quorum in this chamber, so we will suspend until a quorum is returned to the chamber.

Proceedin gs suspended from 18:24 to 18 : 33

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms S Bird ): The chamber will resume. We have gone over time, but I am going to allow the member for Mackellar to finish her question and then the parliamentary secretary can either respond or take it on notice.

Mr Ripoll: Deputy Speaker, a point of clarification: I understand that at 6.30 it changes and the time allocated has actually expired. I would like clarification just so we stick to the rules.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: To clarify: 5.30 to 6.30 is a guide time and there is not another time frame that will come into play on that. In the interests of progressing the debate I am going to allow the member for Mackellar to finish and then the parliamentary secretary can handle it as he sees fit. The member for Mackellar.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. When the parliamentary secretary scrabbled off for the quorum and took the only remaining government member with him, of course this place had to close down because we no longer had a quorum.

Mr Dreyfus: It was called by the opposition in the chamber.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Of course.

Mr Dreyfus: Shutting down debate in both places.

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Not at all. It is because of your behaviour previously. The long and the short of it is you might remember next time that, if you do not want to close down this place, you must leave one government member behind.

To go back to my question and to reiterate, it concerned Mr Ken Henry. I still do not have an answer and I specifically ask for one. Is he a member of the Public Service? If not, when did he leave the Public Service and what is the nature of his contract with the government via section 67? Who wrote the brief for the Governor-General? Who put together the information for her to make that appointment? I think that is a very important point to have on the public record. I repeat: how is it possible that you can ask the Governor-General to appoint someone to a position of $535,000 a year with no job specification, no description of the duties they will have to carry out and no notification to the general public as to why it was necessary to have this very special method of appointment? I make the point that it is special. I asked you for one name of anybody who had been appointed to a political position like this and you cannot supply me with one. All the other people that you have given me the names of are perfectly ordinary appointments under section 67 and I am perfectly familiar with the operation of that. This is an exceptional appointment. You, Parliamentary Secretary, have admitted here today that there are no terms and conditions that have been established. It is all going to be a nice chat when he comes back from leave and we do not even know the date on which he is to return. Would you also supply me with the date on which he will return?