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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 768

Pauline Hanson's One Nation

Senator KETTER (Queensland) (14:00): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. I refer to the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Mr Ciobo, who says that One Nation has demonstrated an approach:

… reflective of what it is … to govern Australia in a fiscally responsible way.

Is it the government's position that One Nation's policy of a flat tax of two per cent on every Australian is fiscally responsible?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:00): Thank you, Senator Ketter; that is a very good question, as I would expect from a fellow Villanova man. I have not seen Mr Ciobo's remarks, but, because I know you are an honest and trustworthy person, I will take them at face value; I would not do that from everyone on your side, but I will from you, Senator Ketter. I find Mr Ciobo to be a very, very wise person. He is a good friend of mine, and I would not disagree at all with anything Mr Ciobo had to say. I dare say that what Mr Ciobo was referring to was the fact that One Nation, in this chamber, has consistently, as Senator Sinodinos pointed out earlier in the week, voted for the government's legislation—the government's legislation to try, in particular, to repair the wreckage wrought to the budget by the previous Labor government and the previous Labor finance minister, Senator Penny Wong. That, I dare say, is what Mr Ciobo was referring to. But I would be a bit wary about opening that question up, Senator Ketter, because you probably were not in the chamber yesterday afternoon during taking note of answers when it was revealed by Senator Hanson, quoting from documents, that One Nation had received an approach from the Queensland branch of the Labor Party.

An opposition senator: That is a lie!

Senator BRANDIS: Senator, you can bawl that it is a lie, but Senator Anthony Chisholm was in the chamber throughout that debate, and time and time again he was called upon to deny it—he being the state secretary at the relevant time—and he was silent. Not a word did he utter. His silence was his consent to that allegation.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! You have a colleague on his feet waiting to ask a question. Senator Ketter, a supplementary question?

Senator KETTER (Queensland) (14:02): Does the minister agree with former Treasurer Mr Costello, who, in 2003, said that One Nation's two per cent flat tax policy 'would have destroyed the Australian economy'?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:03): I agree; I think it was a very foolish policy. I do not know if it is their policy now, but it was a very foolish policy then. I do not know if it is still their policy, but, if it is, it is a very foolish policy. I think you would agree with me about that.

Coming back to the question of One Nation preferences, when Senator Hanson made those remarks in the Senate yesterday afternoon, Senator Chisholm was sitting in his seat and, time and time again, he was given the opportunity to deny it, and he was eloquent by his silence. Senator Ketter, as a well-educated man, you know that they describe Sir Thomas More's refusal to endorse the divorce of Henry VIII as the silence that was heard all through Europe. Senator Chisholm's silence—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Pause the clock.

Senator Dastyari: Mr President, a point of order on relevance: Senator Chisholm was not even the party's secretary at that time, a point that was made by the One Nation senator herself.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Dastyari, resume your seat. That is a debating point.

Senator BRANDIS: So, Senator Chisholm just sat there for 20 minutes. Time and again he was invited to deny it, and he was eloquent by his silence. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Ketter, a final supplementary question.

Senator KETTER (Queensland) (14:05): I note the minister's answer to my first supplementary question, but I am compelled to ask: does the minister think that One Nation is more fiscally responsible than former Treasurer Peter Costello?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:05): Senator Ketter, Mr Costello's remarks, with which I wholeheartedly agree, were made many years ago.

Senator Wong: What has changed?

Senator BRANDIS: I will take your interjection, Senator Wong, and I will tell you what has changed. What has changed is that since One Nation has been represented in this chamber, since the middle of last year, they have shown a willingness to vote for responsible government legislation. Senator Ketter, you and your colleagues in the Labor Party ought to get over the fact that the Australian people elected four One Nation senators. You do not have to agree with them. You are perfectly at liberty to disagree with them, as I do on many issues, but, at the same time, you ought to respect the decision of the Australian people.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left!

Senator BRANDIS: In particular, you ought to respect the decision of your constituents and mine, the people of Queensland, who elected two One Nation senators. Treat them, as your leader is incapable of doing, with professional courtesy. (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senators, that was very disorderly, with a lot of interjections from both sides, particularly from my left. I advise all senators to cease interjections.