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Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Page: 768

Former Member for Dobell

Mrs ANDREWS (McPherson) (14:35): My question is to the Minister for Education representing the Minister for Employment and the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Why is it important that the House express its regret for the statements made to this House on 21 May 2012 by the former member for Dobell?

Mr PYNE (SturtLeader of the House and Minister for Education) (14:36): I thank the member for McPherson for her question. It is very important that this House express its regret and apologise for the statement the former member for Dobell made in 2012. Why is it so? It is so because the privilege that attaches to members of parliament to be free to be able to raise matters in this place without the fear of defamation proceedings is a privilege that should only ever be used in defence of our constituents and because we are trying to do good in this place. It should never be a weapon to be wielded to attack opponents who cannot fight back, which is what the former member for Dobell did in 2012.

The former member for Dobell used parliamentary privilege to defame individual members of this House and also individuals outside the parliament and to mislead the parliament with a fantastic story that he then did not repeat in court when he had the opportunity to stand by it. In fact, not only did he not repeat it but he did not dispute the facts in the case as put by the prosecution. He simply said that the facts were as agreed by the prosecution and defence but that he had the authority to use Health Services Union members' funds for the purposes that he has been found guilty of.

This presents the Leader of the Opposition with an opportunity. This afternoon's debate presents him with an opportunity because he said to Neil Mitchell in 2011 in answer to the question:

You've run a union, you understand these things, do you support him?

Oh, yeah, I believe him—

the Leader of the Opposition said.

You got complete confidence in him?

Neil Mitchell asked him and he said yes. He made it absolutely clear in 2011 that he utterly supported and had full confidence in the former member for Dobell. I expect this afternoon that the member for Maribyrnong, the Leader of the Opposition, will be on his feet not only to apologise for the mistakes he made in supporting the former member for Dobell but also to apologise for providing $350,000 of ALP members' money to the former member for Dobell to defend his actions in the courts.

I assume that the Leader of the Opposition will announce today that he is going to pay back the $267,000 that the former member for Dobell stole from Health Services Union members, some of the poorest-paid workers in Australia, from the $1.2 million that those union members provided to the Labor Party over six years. It is the very least that the Leader of the Opposition can do.