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Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Page: 5289


Mr ABBOTT (WarringahLeader of the Opposition) (14:47): I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition moving immediately—That this House calls on the Prime Minister to speak immediately for up to 15 minutes to explain the following:

(1) what the Prime Minister meant when she said that a "line had been crossed" after months of expressing full confidence in the Member for Dobell;

(2) what the Prime Minister meant when she said she was "disgusted" by an unnamed MP who had worked for an unnamed union;

(3) what the Prime Minister means when she says that the Member for Dobell is entitled to a presumption of innocence even though she’s excluded him from the Caucus; and

(4) whether the Prime Minister has confidence in the Fair Work Australia findings or in the statement to this Parliament by the Member for Dobell given that they can’t both be right.

A Labor member of parliament has been found to have misused $500,000 of union members' money—

Mr Albanese: Madam Deputy Speaker, I refer to my previous point of order and seek clarification of your ruling because it is not quite clear to me what that means now that the Leader of the Opposition has actually moved a suspension. Because the government has not been provided with the words that are in that motion to suspend, it is hard for us to make a determination on it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have not sought to make a ruling. I have gone to the only reference I can find in House of Representatives Practice to the issue and I will advise the Leader of the Opposition not to go too directly to the matters that are currently before the Privileges Committee.

Mr Albanese: On that basis, Madam Deputy Speaker, in order to get a ruling from you, I raise a point of order: that this resolution is out of order given that this matter is now being considered by the Privileges Committee. It is not in order for us now to debate the substance of issues that are before the Privileges Committee.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: With everyone's slight indulgence I am now going to talk to the clerk. The clock will stop in this instance. Again I am loath to make a ruling with respect to the issue, and the difficulty before the chair is that there is absolutely no precedent in House of Representatives Practice that I can refer to. But this is a suspension of standing orders and I ask you to deal with the suspension of standing orders and not to traverse the issues that are before the Privileges Committee.

Mr Albanese: Madam Deputy Speaker, on this issue—the Manager of Opposition Business, when he was asked today why he withdrew a motion from the Notice Paper, indicated in a press conference that that motion was superfluous given that the Privileges Committee was set to look at the matter.

An opposition member: This is ridiculous!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: This is not ridiculous. It is a very serious matter, and I think everybody in this parliament should treat it with the due respect it deserves.

Mr Pyne: Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: it is a very important matter, and I will simply read from House of Representatives Practice:

Questions must not refer to proceedings of a committee not reported to the House. However, no exception has been taken—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat—

Mr Pyne: He is being false.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: and he will withdraw that last statement.

Mr Pyne: Which statement?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The 'false'.

Mr Pyne: That he was being false?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Yes.

Mr Pyne: I withdraw that he was being false.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you. I am trying to assist the Manager of Opposition Business. My difficulty is the House of Representatives Practice refers to a question. We are not dealing with a question. We are dealing with a substantive motion. The substantive motion must be dealt with, and I caution the Leader of the Opposition not to traverse the matters before the Privileges Committee.

Mr ABBOTT: Madam Deputy Speaker, as you would expect I am speaking to my motion to suspend standing orders. Standing orders ought to be suspended because the most important business before this House right now ought to be getting a prime ministerial explanation. Who does she believe? Does she believe the findings of fact, of Fair Work Australia, or does she believe—

Mr Albanese: Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: the Leader of the Opposition has gone precisely to the matter that the Manager of Opposition Business has referred to the Privileges Committee.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Leader of the Opposition has the call and will go to the suspension before the chair.

Mr ABBOTT: Indeed, and one of the reasons standing orders should be suspended is that it is obvious from the conduct of the Leader of the House that this government is still determined to run a protection racket for the member for Dobell. And every time this jack-in-the-box gets up—

Mr Brendan O'Connor: You are a disgrace!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The parliamentary secretary is warned.

Mr Albanese: Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: I ask that the Leader of the Opposition withdraw that statement.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Leader of the Opposition knows I objected to those statements just yesterday. He can withdraw and proceed with his motion before the chair.

Mr ABBOTT: Madam Deputy Speaker, to assist you and out of respect for the House, I withdraw. But it is very important—

Mr Albanese interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Leader of the Opposition has withdrawn and he will continue on the substantive motion before the chair.

Mr ABBOTT: Standing orders must be suspended because the great drama before this parliament this week has been the statement of the member for Dobell and the obvious contradictions between what was said in this parliament by the member for Dobell and the Fair Work Australia—

Mrs Mirabella: You can't handle the truth!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Indi is warned.

Mr Albanese: Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: the Leader of the Opposition has gone again to precisely the issue that has been referred to the Privileges Committee. The Manager of Opposition Business has just given it up because he says it does not matter. It does.

Mr Pyne: Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: this is a very important matter, and I will tell you why. The advice the House has received from the Clerk through me as Manager of Opposition Business is that by referring this matter to the Privileges Committee there was no basis for restricting debate in the House, and the only matter that could not be traversed was the proceedings of the Privileges Committee itself. This is the subject we are debating; the member for Dobell's veracity, not the proceedings of the Privileges Committee.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think it is a very difficult decision for anyone to determine what the matters in the Privileges Committee will be.

Opposition members: The proceedings!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! What proceedings? They have not met yet. You are predetermining the proceedings and I am trying to avoid that. The Leader of the Opposition has the call and will refer to the substantive motion before the chair.

Mr ABBOTT: That is precisely what I am doing. I am explaining to the House that the most important matter before this House right now ought to be who this Prime Minister believes. She should explain herself. Fair Work Australia or the member for Dobell: who does she believe? This is why the standing orders of this parliament should be suspended.