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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5023


Mr PYNE (SturtManager of Opposition Business) (15:49): The key point made by the member for Isaacs in relation to this matter of public importance is that it is outrageous for the parliament to be considering the matters to do with the member for Dobell. I would point the member for Isaacs to one of his own very respected and senior colleagues in past parliaments, Senator Robert Ray, from his own state of Victoria, who, when matters were being raised in 1997 to do with another person in another place, wrote to Peter Reith, at that stage the Leader of the House. He said in that letter:

… your intervention is an affront to the principle that there is no authority superior to Parliament in the determination of its own procedures and actions. Indeed, an earlier Speaker of the House of Representatives has relevantly observed that there is no authority superior to Parliament which could arrogate to itself the power to appoint any commission or other tribunal to invade the sphere of Parliamentary jurisdiction in the conduct and direction of its own business.

In other words, the parliament had every right in 1997, as it does today, to consider, vote upon and deal with the matters to do with the member for Dobell. It is simply a convenience put forward by the member for Isaacs in this debate today to try to continue the racket that has surrounded the member for Dobell for a very long time in this place to stop him from being held to account for bringing the parliament into disrepute.

On 9 September last year, the member for Dobell told the Australian, 'I will make a comprehensive statement in the near future.' Eight months ago the member for Dobell indicated that he would make a statement to the parliament in relation to what at that stage were allegations—now findings of fact by Fair Work Australia that have engulfed him. After many attempts to get him to do so—all opposed by the Prime Minister, the Labor caucus and, until two weeks ago, the members for Lyne, Melbourne and New England, voting again and again in this place—he gave a statement yesterday. He was given one hour to justify himself. The opposition was not given even one minute to test his claims. But he did not give a comprehensive statement. He gave a statement that was an exercise in self-justification, blame-shifting and heaping of conspiracy upon conspiracy. His statement, to many, sounded like pure fantasy, an alibi for the Prime Minister, a fig leaf for what we all know to be true—that the Prime Minister failed to act until too late. By rejecting his vote in the caucus but accepting it in the parliament, she has exposed her own hypocrisy. While she is prepared to be judge and jury when it does not affect her, she will cling to her vote in this place because her No. 1 priority is in fact to hang onto power.

The member for Dobell's claim was that he was set up by a tormentor in the Health Services Union. For his story to be believed, the following must be true: his tormentor was able to break into his hotel room and use the hotel room, leaving undetected, on numerous occasions; his tormentor knew the code to his mobile phone and was able to use it moments after the member for Dobell made legitimate business calls and get it back to him moments before other legitimate business calls, without being detected; his tormentor stole his credit card and drivers licence from his home on the Central Coast, drove to Sydney, passed himself off as the member for Dobell, forged his signature, drove back to the Central Coast, broke back into the member for Dobell's home and put his credit card and drivers licence back into his wallet, and left undetected—

Mr Fitzgibbon: Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: I am genuinely reluctant to interrupt—I mean that very, very genuinely—but I ask you to reflect on whether the Manager of Opposition Business is going well beyond any allegations made in the Fair Work Australia report and, if he is going to make such substantial allegations, whether he should do so by a substantive motion rather than abuse the MPI.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr KJ Thomson ): The MPI before us is about how the parliament should respond to matters related to the member for Dobell rather than an examination of the actions of the member. I hope the Manager of Opposition Business will bear that in mind in his remarks.

Mr PYNE: I am, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker. In order to be able to debate the MPI, in order to debate the importance of public confidence and public trust in the Australian parliament, we need to examine the believability of the statement the member for Dobell made yesterday. If it is found to be unbelievable, it goes to the second part of the MPI, which is about how the parliament should respond to the matters that are related to the member for Dobell. I thank the member for Lyne for putting the matter of public importance into debate today to give the opposition the first opportunity it has had to do so.

I continue. His tormentor was able to pull this off not just to purchase the services of escort agencies but also to purchase personal items such as running shoes; to dine at restaurants such as 41 in Sydney's CBD; to travel interstate and overseas; to hire staff to work on the Dobell election campaign in 2007; to pay for printing for the election campaign; to make $100,000 of cash withdrawals from ATMs; and otherwise to live the high life—all without the member for Dobell suspecting that there was something going on.

But if that is not enough to strain credulity, we need to suspend reality to believe that, in spite of the member for Dobell suspecting he was being set up, when each of the credit card statements was presented to him for payment he ignored the suspicions in the back of his mind that he was being set up and simply signed off on them being paid. That is odd, really. You would think that, if most people received their credit card statements and names like Miss Behaving escort agency appeared on them, it would cause them to pause before they signed off on the payment of such credit card invoices—not so the member for Dobell. It reminds me of the words of Jack Palance, from Ripley's Believe It or Not—'believe it or not'. And the opposition does not believe it.

In the statement the member for Dobell made yesterday, which he claims to be a comprehensive statement, he left out some of the very key issues that this House has been questioning the government about for some time and that were clearly needing to be dealt with yesterday in his statement. He failed to explain to the House the finding of Fair Work Australia that he misused $457,000 of funds on all the other matters besides the escort agencies, that he dealt with yesterday. How does he account for the finding of Fair Work Australia that he advanced false and misleading evidence to the authority in that investigation? Did he receive a credit card from the printing firm employed by the Health Services Union for his own personal use that would amount to receiving a secret commission if true?

When did he receive the benefit of the payment of his legal fees from the New South Wales Labor Party and loans from the New South Wales Labor Party, and why were they not declared on the Register of Members' Interests until media inquiries were made about them? Why until recently has he declined to assist both the New South Wales and Victorian police with their inquiries into his own actions and the operations of the Health Services Union when he was its national secretary? On what basis did he claim to Mike Smith last year that $15,000 was repaid by a third party to the Health Services Union for unauthorised expenditure on escort services, a claim specifically refuted in the Fair Work Australia report?

These are the key issues that the member for Dobell failed to address in his statement yesterday. I and the opposition believe, as do the member for Lyne and other independents in this House, that these key issues need to be explained by the member for Dobell in a further statement to the House—a statement to the House that is genuinely comprehensive. He needs to not only cover the matters that he covered yesterday but deal explicitly with the questions that I have placed on the Hansard today in this matter of public importance. Until he does, this matter cannot be resolved. Until he does, the parliament still has a right, as outlined by Senator Robert Ray in 1997, to protect its own interests, its own integrity and the reputation of every member in this House.