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Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Page: 1088

Australian Human Rights Commission


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (14:00): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to evidence in Senate estimates today that the government offered an inducement for the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission to resign. Was the Prime Minister or his office aware that the Attorney-General had authorised this inducement?

The SPEAKER: I think the use of the word 'inducement' is debate and is of the nature of an allegation. I think I would prefer you to use another word.

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, on a point of order, the use of that particular word is because of specific evidence that has been given in Senate estimates and is only referring to it as has been given in evidence.

Mr Pyne: Madam Speaker, on the point of order, I am sure you are entirely across it, but the reality is that, under standing order 100, it is acceptable for the Leader of the Opposition to ask factual questions based on fact, especially about a serious matter, but the word 'inducement' connotes a certain dishonesty and as a consequence, therefore, it would be out of order. If the Leader of the Opposition wants to ask a serious factual question about a serious matter then he should do so, and he would be better advised to do that than to mix it up with debate, as you pointed out in the point you made earlier. It offends standing order 100(d)—'Questions must not contain'—and therefore I would ask you to either rule it out of order or take another course where the Leader of the Opposition can withdraw that particular word.

The SPEAKER: I think I would prefer you to use another term if you would like to rephrase your question.

Mr SHORTEN: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I am happy to use another term.

The SPEAKER: One that is suitable and in the same context as I am indicating.

Mr SHORTEN: I think the context will become clear. Was the Prime Minister or his office aware that the resignation of the President of the Human Rights Commission was being sought on the authority of the Attorney-General, and was the Prime Minister or his office aware that a specific role was being offered to the President of the Human Rights Commission on the condition that she resign?









Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (14:03): It is true that the government has lost confidence in the President of the Human Rights Commission. The government has lost confidence in the President of the Human Rights Commission.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: There will be silence on my left.

Mr ABBOTT: Let members of this parliament understand exactly what this President of the Human Rights Commission has been doing. This president recommended that taxpayers pay $300,000 in reparations to a convicted murderer—

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, on a point of order, in your earlier ruling you insisted that the language provide nothing that could be considered to be in any way political or in any—

The SPEAKER: There is no point of order.

Mr Burke: Madam Speaker, in that context, the rule of direct relevance should be strictly observed.

The SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat.

Mr Burke interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. He is perfectly well aware that the standing orders apply to questions, not to answers. The Prime Minister has the call. A further point of order?

Mr Burke: Yes, Madam Speaker. You have just said that the standing orders apply to questions, not to answers.

The SPEAKER: Standing order 100 I am referring to.

Mr Burke: Yes, but I raised direct relevance, which is 104, which is under the big letters 'Answers'. It is in bold.

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: It is all right. The question is one of relevance, and of course it applies to answers. The Prime Minister will be relevant to the question.

Mr ABBOTT: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I have been asked about Professor Triggs, and I am answering that question. The Human Rights Commission has recently brought down a report on children in detention. All of us want to see children out of detention, and the way to get children out of immigration detention is to stop the boats.

Ms Butler interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Griffith is not in her seat and may not speak.

Mr ABBOTT: And that is exactly what this government has done and, as a result of this government stopping the boats, children are leaving immigration detention.

Under the policies of members opposite, when 50,000 people came illegally to this country by boat, at its peak there were almost 2,000 children in detention. At the time of the election, there were 1,400 children in detention. Professor Triggs did not have an inquiry into children in detention when there were 2,000 of them or when there were 1,400 of them.

Mr Dreyfus: Madam Speaker, on a point of order under standing order 91, the Prime Minister is wilfully disregarding the authority of the Speaker.

The SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. There is no point of order.

Mr ABBOTT: Professor Triggs did not have an inquiry into children in detention when there were 2,000 of them or when there were 1,400 of them, but we do know that she did discuss it with Labor members of parliament and with ministers in the former government and decided not to do it because, she said, it would be too political. It is too political to have an inquiry into children in detention when there are 1,400 of them, but it is not too political to do it when the number is under 200.

Dr Chalmers interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Rankin will desist.

Mr ABBOTT: It is absolutely crystal clear: this inquiry by the President of the Human Rights Commission is a political stitch-up. It is a political stitch-up, and it will be called out by members of this government.

This government has lost confidence in the President of the Human Rights Commission. I do not know what matters have been canvassed with Professor Triggs.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr ABBOTT: All I know—

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: There will be silence on my left!

Mr ABBOTT: is that she was asked by Labor, 'Do you understand it to be an inducement?' and she said, 'I prefer not to use that term.' If she would rather not use that term, members opposite should not either.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: That sort of raucous behaviour is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.