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Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Page: 287

Mr PYNE (SturtManager of Opposition Business) (15:09): I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Sturt moving immediately:

That the Prime Minister be called on immediately to give a full explanation to the House about the circumstances involving her office and the representatives of the Tent Embassy protesters that led to the disturbance at The Lobby Restaurant on Australia Day and, in particular, to answer the charge that a culture of dirty tricks exists in her office preventing her office from addressing the serious policy issues besetting the nation at this time.

Australians instinctively want to believe the best about their Prime Minister but whilst so many questions remain unanswered about the role of her office in the Australia Day riots the Australian people cannot help but question the credibility of this Prime Minister. Standing orders need to be suspended to allow this motion to be debated and agreed to so the Prime Minister can do the right thing: give a full explanation to the House and dispel the notion that is abroad in this country that the office elevates dirty tricks above addressing the policy challenges that beset the nation.

We know that this Prime Minister would walk on a million corpses to become a cabinet minister. She told us this herself. We know she would dispatch a Prime Minister of her own party to gain the office of Prime Minister. We know she would tell the Australian people one thing to win an election and then do the opposite immediately after an election to stay in power. We know she would dispatch a Speaker to gain an extra vote in this chamber. We know she would dispatch a friend and cabinet colleague in Senator Kim Carr to keep the faceless men of the caucus happy. We know she would tear up her contract with the member for Denison to keep the foreign minister at bay. Comparing her to Lady Macbeth is unfair on Lady Macbeth—she only had one victim to her name; this Prime Minister has a list of victims longer than Richard III.

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Sturt no longer has the call.

Mr Albanese: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: the Manager of Opposition Business is being disorderly and he should withdraw.

The SPEAKER: It would be enormously helpful to the House if the Manager of Opposition Business withdrew the imputation that he just articulated.

Mr PYNE: I withdraw. But surely this Prime Minister would draw the line at allowing her office, the office of Prime Minister, to become tainted by the suggestion that it is engaged in black operations to damage the Leader of the Opposition. The Australia Day riot was no idle matter. It was the most serious breach of a Prime Minister's security since the Fraser government. No-one enjoyed seeing the Prime Minister in a headlock, dragged downstairs and along a path, chased by an angry mob, shoved in the back of a car and losing a shoe in the process. Nobody enjoyed that. It was shocking, it was terrible and it was humiliating both for the Prime Minister and for Australia as these images were flashed around the world.

If anyone should want to get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding this unfortunate event, it should be the Prime Minister. If anybody should want to get rid of the lingering stench that hangs over this government because of the actions of her staff on Australia Day, it should be the Prime Minister. If the Prime Minister is to have any credibility in the future, she should want to get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding the most serious security breach to a Prime Minister since the Fraser government. And yet it took the opposition to refer this matter to the Australian Federal Police, having given the Prime Minister four days in which to do the right thing and refer it to them. In the teeth of inaction on the Prime Minister's part, the opposition acted.

Too many questions remain unanswered about this matter for it to simply go away. Let me go through them. What precisely did the Prime Minister's staff say to Kim Sattler on Australia Day that would have led her to instigate the subsequent events? If the Prime Minister expects us to believe that her staff relayed Mr Abbott's words exactly, why did Kim Sattler write on Facebook and in an email to 3AW that Mr Abbott had suggested the tent embassy be cleared? Did Mr Hodges speak to any other activists?

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Sturt will refer to the Leader of the Opposition by his title.

Mr PYNE: I will. Did Mr Hodges speak to any other activists or protesters on Australia Day in relation to the events that were unfolding at the Lobby restaurant? If so, to whom? What was the content of those conversations? Why were the Prime Minister's media advisers telling press gallery journalists on Thursday afternoon that the Leader of the Opposition had started a riot if they were not trying to gain political mileage from the events of Australia Day? Who were those staff members? Has any action been taken in her office in relation to those staff? Who were the other three prime ministerial office staff at the Lobby on Thursday when Mr Hodges was communicating with Kim Sattler of Unions ACT at the tent embassy protest? Have they been questioned as to their involvement in the events of the day? Can she guarantee that no other staff were involved in the events that led to the Australia Day affray?

What conversations occurred between her head of communications, John McTernan, and Kim Sattler on Friday, Saturday and Sunday? What was the content of those conversations that would lead Kim Sattler to describe herself as being the meat in the sandwich? Did any conversations occur between the Prime Minister's office and Kim Sattler on Sunday that would cause her to alter her account of her interaction with the Prime Minister's staff from the one she gave News Ltd papers on Saturday and upon which the Prime Minister relied today, conveniently forgetting the statement she had made on Saturday to the News Ltd press?

Did Mr Hodges, when passing on the comments of the Leader of the Opposition, make any mention of his remarks in his historic apology in 2008 or the proposal for recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution? When Mr Hodges informed his immediate superiors on Australia Day of his phone calls to the office of the ACT minister for Indigenous affairs and Ms Sattler, who else was subsequently told about the events? Who in turn did they tell? Why was the Prime Minister not told for close to 24 hours? Once informed on Friday afternoon, why did the Prime Minister not immediately tell the public rather than wait until after 6.00 pm that night, conveniently outside the media cycle? Was Mr Hodges required to sign a confidentiality agreement or an agreement of nondisclosure upon his resignation from the Prime Minister's office? When initially making contact with the office of Chris Bourke, the ACT Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, to whom did Mr Hodges speak? What was the content of that conversation? During that conversation, was the suggestion made that Mr Hodges speak to anyone else? Who made that suggestion?

Has anyone in the Prime Minister's office spoken to senior AFP figures in relation to the events of Australia Day? Given the gravity of the Australia Day protests, has the Prime Minister or her chief of staff initiated a review of their internal processes? To whom did Prime Minister's staffers Sean Kelly and John McTernan speak once they were informed of events by Mr Hodges on Thursday? While working to establish the facts, did they speak to anyone else in the Prime Minister's office or other ministerial offices or to other Labor or union figures? When did Mr Kelly or Mr McTernan inform Mr Ben Hubbard of the matters raised with them by Mr Hodges? What instructions did any member of the Prime Minister's office convey to Labor members of parliament on Australia Day about the use of social media, including Facebook and Twitter, about the events that had occurred? Of course, the final question is: where is Mr Hodges? Is he in a witness protection program? He has gone to ground. We have not seen him since his resignation, yet he was very prepared to be upfront on Australia Day.

Mr Albanese: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have been reluctant, but this is a suspension of standing orders. There are limits to what he can talk about in terms of why the suspension should be supported. Going to character assassination of a former staff member is too much.

The SPEAKER: The member should focus on why standing orders ought to be suspended. However, former staff members are not extended the protection of the standing orders.

Mr PYNE: Standing orders should be suspended because, as Shakespeare also wrote, there is something rotten in the state of Denmark. There is something very rotten in the Prime Minister's office, and these questions remain unanswered. While the Prime Minister refuses to answer these questions, a rotten stench lingers over the Prime Minister and her office that saps the very confidence of the Australian people in the office of the Prime Minister and those who work for her. That is why this suspension should be agreed to and why this motion should be debated and carried. Of all people, the Prime Minister should want to pass this motion. She should want to debate this motion and have it pass through the parliament so that a full explanation can be given of her role in the events on Australia Day that have cast such a shadow over her office and her prime ministership.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?