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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4732


Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (13:29): Madam Deputy Speaker, I wish to raise with you a matter of privilege concerning the member for Hughes and his apparent failure to comply with the resolution of the House which requires members to register certain private interests. A resolution is in place requiring all members to register certain interests and to report changes to those interests within 28 days, as you are aware. Any member who fails to provide an accurate declaration of their interests or fails to report changes within the required time frame is guilty of a serious contempt of the House.

I have reason to believe that the member for Hughes has failed to honour his obligations under this resolution. I informed him earlier today that I would be raising this issue and, I must say, he proclaims his innocence of these matters. It appears the member may have failed to declare directorships of several—

Mr Pyne: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am loath to interrupt the Leader of the House when he is raising a matter of privilege, but the correct process to raise a matter of breach of the register of interests is exactly the way I did it, which is to write to the Chair of the Privileges Committee. As we have discussed before, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker have no role in whether this matter should be referred to the Privileges Committee.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business is correct. If there is just an issue in respect of the register, the issue can be referred directly to the committee.

Mr ALBANESE: Yes, Madam Deputy Speaker, but it can also under the standing orders be raised with you.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: It actually will not be raised with me; it will be raised with the Speaker. The Leader of the House has the right to raise the issue and he will be heard.

Mr Pyne: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker: the only purpose of raising a matter of prima facie breach of privilege with the Speaker or, in this case, the Deputy Speaker is so that the Speaker can afford it a motion to refer it to the Privileges Committee as a matter of priority. As there is no requirement to have a priority for such a motion, this is out of order.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Leader of the House has the right to raise the issue before the chair.

Mr ALBANESE: And I am. The member for Hughes may have failed to declare directorships of several companies, failed to declare potential liabilities arising from the collapse of a company with which he was involved, failed to declare possible criminal charges arising from that collapse and failed to declare that he has been practising as a solicitor at the same time as serving as a member of the House. For the benefit of the House, I will briefly outline the facts that I say potentially constitute contempt against the House. I refer to paragraph 2(d) of the House resolution.

Mr Pyne: Madam Deputy Speaker, I put it to you that this is a clear breach of the standing orders of the parliament. I raised a matter of privilege entirely in the way that I was instructed to do so under the standing orders. This is a gratuitous attack on one of the members of the House and it should be done using the proper process.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I understand the concern of the Manager of Opposition Business. It is actually a matter of my response at the end of the Leader of the House's contribution.

Mr ALBANESE: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The member for Hughes has failed to declare registered company directorships for several companies, including Homewares Depot Pty Ltd—the member was a director until 25 March 2011, but this was not declared. He was also the company secretary, but the member failed to declare this on his register of interests too. The member was a director of Valentino Franchising Pty Ltd until 25 March 2011 but failed to declare this. The member was a director of Valentino Home Fashion Pty Ltd until 8 March 2011, but once again the member failed to declare this.

For the benefit of the House, I table an extract from the relevant Australian Securities and Investments Commission database documenting the member's involvement with the companies in question. I also refer to the member's statement of registrable interests for the 43rd Parliament lodged on 25 October 2010 and I table that document. At item 4 of that statement, 'Registered directorships of companies', the member has entered 'nil'. In contempt of the resolution of this House, the member has failed to declare the company directorships to which I have just referred.

What is perhaps more concerning is the member's failure to notify the House of the shadow director role that he allegedly played in another company. In a report of February 2012, the liquidators of the member for Hughes's family company have raised questions about whether he was acting as a shadow director at the time of the collapse. These very serious questions were highlighted by reports appearing on the Crikey news website. DV Kelly Pty Ltd, for whom the member worked as an export manager prior to entering the parliament, closed its doors earlier this year. At the time of its collapse, DV Kelly Pty Ltd, the member's family company, owed $4 million to creditors. Worryingly, this includes $325,540 in unpaid wages, superannuation and leave owed to 12 ordinary Australian workers, and $760,000 owed to the Australian taxpayer through the Australian Taxation Office.

The member might say the shadow directorship was too uncertain to require declaration under rules for company directors. This is a matter that the Privileges Committee will ultimately have to determine. However, even if the member were not required to declare his involvement with DV Kelly Pty Ltd under the rules for company directors, which I dispute, he was required to declare it under other—

Mr Pyne: Madam Deputy Speaker, the Leader of the House is now putting his own version of events to do with this privileges matter. It is quite out of order for him to be debating this issue. He should be referring it to the Privileges Committee, as I did, and not smearing the member for Hughes in the parliament this way.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Leader of the House has the call and I would ask him to come to a conclusion.

Mr ALBANESE: Paragraph 2(m) provides that members must declare any interests of any kind where a conflict with their public duties could foreseeably arise or be seen to be arising. That is certainly the case here. The liquidators report that DV Kelly Pty Ltd may have been trading while insolvent, a grave allegation which could carry significant consequences, importantly for the ability of the member to continue his parliamentary career.

Under the Corporations Act 2001, directors, including shadow directors, of companies trading while insolvent can face civil penalties of up to $200,000 and may be held personally liable for debts incurred. Recall that at the time of the collapse DV Kelly Pty Ltd owed $4 million to creditors. As you would be aware, under section 44(iii) of the Australian Constitution, any person who is an undischarged bankrupt is disqualified as a member of the House of Representatives.

Ms Julie Bishop: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. You asked the Leader of the House to come to a conclusion. He is now lecturing us on the Constitution. He is debating the issues. It is entirely inappropriate for him to conduct himself in this way in this House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume her seat. The Leader of the House has the right to bring the issue before the chair but I would ask him to try and come to a resolution.

Mr ALBANESE: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. That raises a serious issue with regard to the liabilities that could potentially be incurred there and, in addition, to the potential penalties to which they would be subject.

Finally, we come to the question of the member for Hughes practising as a solicitor while at the same time serving as a member of the House. There have been reports that after ceasing employment with this company the member represented it in several outstanding legal matters. A search of court databases confirms the member's involvement in this litigation. I table another document.

I refer the House again to the resolution concerning registration of interests, in particular paragraph 2(j), which provides that members must declare any substantial sources of income. If the member for Hughes was receiving any income as a result of his involvement in these legal proceedings—even if only costs were incurred in DV Kelly's favour—was this otherwise an interest that might conflict with the member's official duties within the meaning of paragraph 2(m) of the resolution?

I submit the matters I have outlined today indicate the member for Hughes may have failed to satisfy his obligations under the resolution concerning registration of interests and in doing so may have committed a serious contempt against the House of Representatives. This is an issue that should be referred to the House Standing Committee of Privileges and Members' Interests. In my submission I ask that you consider these matters with a view to allowing precedence. I table the document.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: In accordance with standing order 216, the matter can be referred directly to the House Standing Committee of Privileges and Members' Interests. I would ask the Leader of the House to write in that matter.