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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 14685

Special Minister of State


Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsDeputy Manager of Opposition Business) (14:06): My question is to the Special Minister of State. I refer to the minister's answers and statements in the House, and I refer to the claims made by James Ashby about the Assistant Minister for Innovation, where he said, 'he presented me a sheet of paper with instructions of what I should do, and one of the first steps was to get a copy of the office diary.' Was the minister aware of or did he have any input into drafting these instructions? Is conduct of this nature consistent with the standards of this government?

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker—

Mr Sukkar interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Deakin will cease interjecting.

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: I refer all members to the statements that I have made about interjections when I am trying to hear points of order and trying to hear questions and answers. Let me make it abundantly clear again—I should not have to—that I will deal with any interjections very strongly. I am not going to have the House disrupted when I am trying to hear answers and hear points of order. I really do foreshadow that, if it continues, I will give ministers the option just to sit down. If I cannot hear the answer, parliament becomes unruly.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The government has been very generous in terms of not taking points of order on the member for Isaacs's questions, but this question is impossible for the minister to answer, because how can he know what was in the mind of another member of parliament based on allegations made by a person who is not even a member of this House, about which the Special Minister of State has no specific knowledge and nor has he any responsibility?

Ms Kate Ellis interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Adelaide is warned.

Mr Burke: Mr Speaker, on the point of order: the question goes directly to the awareness that the minister may or may not have had and is a way of further interrogating the previous answer that he gave.

Mr Pyne: Mr Speaker, this is where the Manager of Opposition Business has just exposed himself, because, quite frankly, it is not the job of the member for Isaacs to interrogate the Special Minister of State as though he were in a court of law in a case. In question time, in the parliament of the House, there are standing orders that govern questions and what a minister can be asked. As long as he can be asked matters that are within his ministerial responsibility or about which he has commented, as you pointed out before, they may well be in order. But a question like this, which is purely a fishing expedition, probably would not even be allowed in a court of law.

Mr Burke: Just to add to what I said previously, the final part of that question is, 'Is conduct of this nature consistent with the standards that this government applies?'

The SPEAKER: I have been very generous in the questions that I have allowed. That has been quite deliberate, because, as I said when I became Speaker, I want to see free-flowing debate, and that flows both ways. It is important that questions draw a connection. I have pointed that out. This question is stretching it further than other questions. The last point that the member for Watson made, I think, is a valid one. To me, that is the only part of the question that is in order. So I foreshadow now that, certainly, questions can be asked about previous answers, but that does not open up the possibility for the member for Isaacs or, for that matter, anyone else to simply refer to previous answers and then ask a question about a different event or subject. I will allow the minister, if he wishes, to answer just that last part of the question, which was about his ministerial responsibilities, if he can recall it.











Mr BROUGH (FisherMinister for Defence Materiel and Science and Special Minister of State) (14:10): I am struggling to recall it.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr BROUGH: You poor diddums! The last day of the parliament, and this is good as you get! If I am to understand the member for Isaacs, he is asking me to some make statement or some reflection on—

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume his seat. The member for Isaacs can just read the last part of the question. I gave a long ruling, and it is unfair to the minister. Just the last sentence of the question.

Mr Dreyfus: Was the minister aware of—

The SPEAKER: No, that is not the last sentence, I don't think. I have asked you to read the last sentence. If you read any more than that, I will simply sit you down and move to the next question.

Mr Dreyfus: Sorry. Is conduct of this nature consistent with the standards that this government applies?

Mr BROUGH: It is a strange question from the member for Isaacs.

Mr Bowen interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for McMahon will cease interjecting.

Mr BROUGH: He asked me to reflect on conduct about a document that I have never seen. I do not know what is contained in that document, and then I am to make a judgment upon it. That would seem to be the approach that the Member for Isaacs has taken for the last two weeks.

Ms MacTiernan interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Perth is warned.