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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4975


Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (18:07): I go back to the original line of questioning that I was pursuing in relation to the small matter of a charter letter or what is better known as a job description from the Prime Minister to the minister. I was not suggesting to correct the parliamentary secretary that it was somehow Senator McLucas' fault that she had not received her own charter letter. She might draft it for herself and send it to herself, but really it does need to come from the Prime Minister. That has been the tradition of the Westminster system. However, the Deputy Speaker will be aware that, when Senator McLucas took this portfolio, things were a little chaotic on the government side, and we wonder whether part of that chaos and dysfunction was the oversight of a charter letter not being sent. We remember the time in March when we had the minister for immigration resign, the minister for resources resign, the minister for regional development resign, the parliamentary secretary for Pacific islands, who is with us in the chamber, resign. Quite a few people resigned and one of those ministers who resigned was Minister Senator Kim Carr. We understand that Senator Carr had received a charter letter; Senator McLucas has not received a charter letter. Through the chair, Parliamentary Secretary, it does seem that you thought it was a laughing matter or an irrelevancy that the minister would just know what her responsibilities were and would know what pieces of legislation she was responsible for. The purpose of the charter letter is for the Prime Minister to explain to the minister: 'These are the areas that you have responsibility for.' It is a very significant document in a ministry. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary through you, Deputy Speaker: can he assure the House that the Minister for Human Services is aware of the responsibilities that the Prime Minister has given to her in her capacity as the Minister for Human Services? If so, how is she aware of them if she does not have her charter letter? Another point that the parliamentary secretary may answer is: have you received from your Cabinet minister you charter letter?

The process used to be in a normal working, functioning government was that a junior minister, as the Minister for Human Services is, or an outer ministry minister, would receive a letter from the Prime Minister. In this case, that has not occurred for whatever reasons. We suspect the chaos and dysfunction of the Gillard government is the reason in this case.

In the formally normal sort of the government, where the adults are in charge, the cabinet minister would send the parliamentary secretary a charter letter too. I am not sure if that was the case with the parliamentary secretary for Pacific Islands or not, but in a normal functioning government that was the case. In a functioning government after September 14, we suspect that will be the case again.

I say to the parliamentary secretary with the five minutes he has got left to answer this question: Parliamentary Secretary, is the Minister for Human Services likely to receive some correspondence from the Prime Minister at any stage in this term of government just to outline what she is responsible for with $157 billion worth of payments to make; and indeed have you received a letter from your cabinet minister advising you what your responsibilities are too?