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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7479


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (13:30): I read carefully the motion that has been put before the House. I commend the member for Throsby and the member Chifley for their examination of and their detailed response to the government's actions in relation to the home insulation scheme.

One of the things that draw my attention was in fact that this motion calls on the government to give details of alleged fraud, to give details of cases that have been investigated and to give details about prosecutions in train. We have a longstanding convention called the sub judice convention in Australian parliaments. Members can debate on many topics freely in the chamber. But there is an unwritten rule that they do not debate current court cases as that would prejudice such cases. This includes debates on what might happen in court or things that would undermine confidence in the legal system or judges in particular. In the national parliament, members are entitled to talk freely about not just local constituency issues or national issues but international issues. But one of the things that we should not do is talk about cases that are currently on foot or current investigations or prosecutions.

Parliament is the people's place, but if you want to talk about waste—and the coalition talks about waste a lot—what a waste this motion is. It is a waste of time, because, as the member for Throsby and the member for Chifley talked about before, these things have been debated in this chamber on many occasions. But this motion is typical of the coalition. It contains wording that once shows the coalition's scant regard for the legal process, legal protections or legal presumptions. This motion is partisan nonsense. It is not about getting the fraudsters, which the Australian public and this government wants. The opposition do not want that. They want to talk about their own naked political interests. They do not want to talk about the national interest at all.

We do not by actions nor by words prejudice the time and effort put in by prosecutorial authorities. We do not prejudice the rights of the accused. We do not prejudice the taxpayer funds tied up in the effective operation and management of our legal system. It costs a lot of money to be involved in court cases. When I was a lawyer, I was involved in lots of court cases that were delayed, adjourned or abandoned for a variety of reasons. I saw and witnessed the time, effort, energy and money involved and the impact on not just those on one side of the aisle but those on the other—clients of mine as well as those people who were charging them or bringing civil actions against them.

The coalition should have a good look at itself for bringing forward motions like this. This is not about getting to the bottom of getting to the home insulation problems in this country. What they are doing is creating fear. I have a genuine fear that they will prejudice ongoing investigations.

The government, in a major statement on 3 March this year, clearly advised that it was unable to comment on issues relating to fraud investigations that were currently being conducted by the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. That was appropriate. It is a good and sound legal principle. But the coalition has always said one thing and done another when it comes to legal processes, legal protections and human rights. They pose and parade and prance about on these issues, but their record with respect to them is very poor.

This motion calls for inspections to be carried out that are unnecessary, frivolous and vexatious. What a waste of time. This is a political attack, pure and simple. They have dressed it up in fine words, but we all know what it is about. We have debated this before during private member's business in the House. As the member for Chifley correctly pointed out, we have rejected these types of things before. But like Banquo's ghost in Macbeth, back it comes. They cannot let this go. They do not want to let the DPP, the AFP or the department carry out their necessary work. That work follows independent advice from the CSIRO and the international risk analysis firm Booz & Co. We have agreed to initiate programs such that 150,000 homes with non-foil insulation will be inspected and necessary corrections carried out. We agreed to do this because we follow independent advice from the experts. Those people opposite should have a good look at themselves. Do not waste taxpayer money. Do not waste the parliament's time. And do not create the risk by continuing to put forward motions like this of prejudicing the legal process and the fraud investigations. Get with the program. Support us in getting the fraudsters.

Debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 13:3 6 to 16:00