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Thursday, 30 September 2010
Page: 344


Mr MORRISON (2:45 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. Will the minister confirm whether contractors working or tendering for work on the Curtin Detention Centre during the election campaign with the firm Complete Site Services, or any related subcontractors, were required to agree to a confidentiality clause or agreement?


Mr BOWEN (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —This question is the latest instalment from the shadow minister’s campaign that there was some sort of secret plan to expand Curtin. Last week he said that he effectively had a smoking gun, because he found a contract for $2 million worth of fencing at Curtin. He said that it showed that there was a secret plan to expand the Curtin Detention Centre. I was at Curtin the day the shadow minister said that. I said to the centre manager at Curtin, ‘Show me this fence—‘


The SPEAKER —Order! The minister should directly relate his answer to the question today.


Mr BOWEN —I will, Mr Speaker, and it goes to the shadow minister’s claim that there is some sort of conspiracy. I said, ‘Show me this fence,’ and they said, ‘Here it is; it is around the existing accommodation.’ It has no relation to the government’s announcement.


Mr Morrison —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order concerning relevance. I specifically asked whether there had been confidentiality clauses agreed that were a condition of the contracts tendered for those works during the pre-election period.


The SPEAKER —The minister will relate his remarks to the question.


Mr BOWEN —In relation to any contracts which related to stage 1—to the original construction of the detention centre at Curtin—I am advised that the situation would be, as per normal, that the contractual arrangements were set between the department and the relevant contractors.


Mr ABBOTT —Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question to the same minister.


Mr Albanese —I rise on a point of order in terms of the provisions for a supplementary question. Such questions have always been allowed, according to House of Representatives practice and Senate practice, indeed, to be asked by the same member. It is a follow-up question to the question they have asked seeking additional information on the basis of the answer that has been given by the minister.


The SPEAKER —In other jurisdictions that is not exactly the case. I was not privy to the elite three members of this House who made the agreement—under 4.2, supplementary questions:

The Leader of the Opposition or their delegate has the option of asking one supplementary question during each question time.

Can I tell you the difficulty that the presiding officer has about this agreement, because, as time has gone on, there has been a lot of interpretation about this agreement—a lot. It continues about matters that are important for getting business rolling for the next sitting Monday, I might add as an aside. I will allow this supplementary question.


Mr ABBOTT —My supplementary question is to the same minister. I ask the minister: does he stand by the Prime Minister’s claim in question time yesterday that the pre-election works at Curtin related only to stage 1 of the expansion and not to stage 2 of the project?


Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, that was not a supplementary question; that was an additional question. A supplementary question must follow-up upon the answer.


The SPEAKER —I think on this occasion that the difficulty is that the early parts of the original answer by the minister may have allowed this as a follow-up question, and I think that that is what I have to consider at this point in time.


Mr Stephen Smith —Mr Speaker, further to the point of order, it is quite clearly the case that the supplementary question was in fact a supplementary question to the question the Leader of the Opposition asked yesterday, not a supplementary question to the question that the member here has raised.


The SPEAKER —I think that the Minister for Defence would be on very solid ground, except for the preamble to the answer that the minister gave.


Mr BOWEN (Minister for Immigration and Citizenship) —I completely stand by the Prime Minister’s statements and my statements. The situation remains as the Prime Minister and I have consistently said. The department of immigration undertook contingency planning across a range of options at a range of centres. The situation is completely as the Prime Minister and I have repeated in the House and outside the House consistently since 17 September and before.