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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 14731


Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (16:10): Why are we having this debate on government integrity? Why was the minister responsible for the standards of members and senators raided by the Australian Federal Police? Why, knowing that the Special Minister of State had told 60 Minutes that the member for Fisher had purloined the former Speaker's diary and spent a further three minutes explaining why this was justified, did the Prime Minister appoint him to that august and particularly sensitive position—a position that requires the highest ethics? Some say that 'Lord Turnbull', the member for Wentworth, who maintains that nothing has happened over the last two years, does not watch 60 Minutes—he does not care what they broadcast; he does not know what the plebs think. No, the public is right in guessing that the member for Fisher was elevated not because of his ethical status but because he was a player in the putsch that removed the member for Warringah to satiate the ego and ambition of the member for Wentworth. The appointment is a political mistake that goes to the heart of the Prime Minister's judgement.

In 2012 the Liberals believed they could use chaos to bring the Labor government down—chaos in parliament, chaos in refusing all duties such as chairing this House. From the first minute, the Abbott conservatives wanted to exact revenge on Slipper. The sudden falling out of the then Speaker with his staff member, who made a harassment claim against him, contributed to this atmosphere of chaos. Why did the member for Fisher involve himself in this sordid destruction of the then Speaker? Even without the status of the Special Minister of State as an individual member of parliament, is this the kind of behaviour that has integrity? It is not just a matter of the revelations he made to Liz Hayes on 60 Minutes. As the member for Isaacs recalled, he confirmed this in a subsequent broadcast on ABC radio on 30 July when he was asked:

You're comfortable receiving material from someone else's diary?

The minister responded:

Absolutely.

On 27 February 2014, in the judgements that the Special Minister of State, the member for Fisher, has constantly referred to, the judges said:

That Brough was prepared to … look at evidence produced by Ashby … does not necessarily mean that his purpose was to harm Slipper politically.

He was not exonerated, he was not vindicated; the judges simply said 'does not necessarily mean.' The current member for Fisher mistakenly believes this vindicates him, but the paragraph is clear that the court did not decide the question of procuring the diary excerpts. It merely stated it 'does not necessarily mean' that the current member for Fisher was motivated in that way. Today we saw the beleaguered Special Minister of State claim that the costings decision on the same case had nothing to do with whether he knew about the procuring of the diary. The same judges in the same case awarded $3 million in costs against Brough's confederates, Ashby and the solicitors Harmers. The judges said:

There had not been a trial of all issues. The relevant evidence had not been given, and the reliability of the witnesses had not been exposed to testing by cross-examination. In the event, as noted above, that will not occur because Ashby has discontinued his proceeding.

We have had the raids on Ashby and Brough, and we have had the misleading of parliament, as the member for Isaacs has so ably pointed out, five times. We have had the silencing of the opposition over these censure motions. And, most extraordinarily—I have never seen anything like it—the government has repeatedly refused to defend the member for Fisher on any of these issues. I cannot believe that none of the front bench—the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General—appear to have read the judgements, especially the costing judgement, which says exactly that no judgement was made about these kinds of things. Exoneration was not given, vindication was not given, because these issues were never finally judged. There was no cross-examination. The case was dropped because Ashby, who made all these allegations of harassment by Slipper, dropped the case. As the minister's own state newspaper, The Courier-Mail, has said:

PM's loyalty is admirable but Brough should do right thing and go.

That is clearly the choice that the Special Minister of State should make. In the interests of this parliament, in the interests of parliamentary integrity, how can he sit there as the Special Minister of State when none of his colleagues will defend him? All of them are worthy people who want to speak on other issues, but none of them will specifically defend him on this issue. For the sake of this parliament, for the sake of Australian democracy, he should resign.