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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4326

Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (15:18): I second the motion. Standing orders must be suspended, because the allegations contained in the Fair Work Australia report go to the heart of the integrity of this parliament. The report has found, amongst other things, that the member for Dobell misused the funds of the Health Services Union to support his election to this parliament. This is a very serious allegation. Let me be clear. A member of this parliament has been accused of a serious fraud that underpins his presence in this place. That is why standing orders must be suspended, because this finding alone surely calls into question the member's legitimacy in this chamber. We are not talking about trivial sums of money. We are not talking about small amounts of union resources. Fair Work Australia has found that the member for Dobell misappropriated around $270,000 for the purposes of his campaign for the 2007 election so he could take a place in this chamber.

There must be serious doubt about whether the member for Dobell would have been successful in his preselection and in the 2007 general election had he not misused those union funds, as found by Fair Work Australia—the government's own creation. This is not a matter that can be swept under the carpet or ignored, and that is why standing orders must be suspended, because the Prime Minister has repeatedly vowed her personal support for the member for Dobell. Recently she claimed that a line had been crossed that necessitated the suspension of the member for Dobell from the Australian Labor Party—although the Prime Minister is yet to answer the question as to whether Labor is still paying his legal fees.

The Prime Minister also claimed that she understands that 'matters concerning Mr Thomson have caused Australians to become concerned about standards in public life'. The Prime Minister said that Australians are 'seeing a dark cloud' when they look at this parliament. If we conclude—and for the sake of this debate let us assume the Prime Minister's version is truthful—that the Prime Minister judged the investigation and the findings of Fair Work Australia sufficiently serious to render the member for Dobell unfit to attend meetings of the federal Labor caucus, how is it that the Prime Minister believes that the member for Dobell is fit to continue to take his place in the parliament?

He is unfit for the Labor Party room but the Prime Minister believes that somehow he remains a fit and proper person to take his place in the parliament and to continue to provide his vote in support of this government.

It is important to note that the member for Dobell has consistently proclaimed his innocence. As recently as 29 April the member for Dobell said: 'I am confident that in a reasonably short period of time the truth will out and I will be vindicated.' It is worth noting that that statement was prior to the release of the Fair Work Australia report—and, rather than being vindicated, the member for Dobell has been subjected to dozens of damning findings of alleged serious misconduct during his time as the National Secretary of the Health Services Union. The fact that these allegations are crucial elements of the circumstances involving the election of the member for Dobell to this parliament, necessitates an explanation from the member to this House.

Standing orders must be suspended to provide the member with the opportunity to explain why he considers the Fair Work Australia report to be a 'joke' and why it found that he had illegally used $200,000 of HSU funds to employ staff to work on his election campaign and $70,000 to directly support his election campaign, $103,000 of unexplained cash withdrawals and dining, entertainment and the procurement of prostitute expenses of more than $80,000. It is a matter of the gravest importance for the parliament for one of the elected members to have been found by an independent government authority of having fraudulently funded their campaign to gain admittance to our national parliament. Those of us elected into parliament are greatly honoured to have the opportunity to serve our electorates. I respectfully urge the members of the crossbench to support this motion; otherwise, the dark cloud will be a dark winter of discontent. (Time expired)