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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 567


Mr PYNE (SturtLeader of the House and Minister for Education) (15:18): I move:

That the following matter be referred to the Committee of Privileges and Members' Interests:

Whether, in the course of his statement to the House on 21 May 2012, and having regard to the findings of the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 18 February 2014 in relation to Mr Thomson, the former Member for Dobell, Mr Craig Thomson, deliberately misled the House.

I ask the Clerk to photocopy the motion and provide it to the Manager of Opposition Business. I will speak very briefly to the matter before the House. I do not wish to traverse all the details of the sordid and tawdry tale of the issues surrounding the former member for Dobell and the Health Services Union over the last several years, but I think it is perfectly clear that, for parliamentary privilege to mean anything, it needs to be protected and enhanced. Members of parliament have a real opportunity in this place to put things on the record that they might otherwise not be able to put on the record without facing matters of defamation. That also comes with a very heavy responsibility. In the statement the former member of Dobell made to the House, several members of the public were named and an extraordinary tale was woven, which many members on this side of the House—and, I am sure, many members on the other side of the House—now regard as fantastic, given that the former member for Dobell did not dispute the facts in the case in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court, only that he had the authority to use Health Services Union members' funds in the way that he used them.

This side of the House—and, I am sure, the Manager of Opposition Business and the other side of the House—believe that telling the truth in parliament is an extremely important aspect of the role we play as members of parliament. Sure, politicians have been accused over the centuries of sometimes gilding the lily and perhaps not being entirely fulsome with all aspects of the truth, but that is a far cry from standing up in the parliament and making statements which are deliberately misleading, which are lies, to the chamber. It is the role of the Privileges Committee to determine whether that was done in a deliberate way and, if so, to recommend to the parliament what sanction might apply to the former member for Dobell. Those members who are interested will be able to look back through the precedents of this place and recognise that this has been an issue in the past, and the parliament has acted.

But I will leave the deliberations on those matters to the Privileges Committee. That is their purpose. I simply place on record for the House today that we think deliberately lying to the House is something that the whole parliament should want to deal with and deal with very severely if we are to maintain a reputation, as any parliament, of putting the truth ahead of the personal political salvation of one member of parliament by lying.

I am glad you have given precedence to this motion. I have discussed it with the Manager of Opposition Business in the House. I look forward to his remarks and I hope the Privileges Committee will deal with the issue in speed and also in an entirely nonpartisan way, in order to protect the reputation of the parliament.