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Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Page: 34

Member for Dobell


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:01): My question is to the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy. Will the minister confirm whether or not he has had contact with former federal Labor Party vice-president and embattled former Health Services Union boss Michael Williamson since the Senate arose last year, including at the ALP national conference? In the event the minister did speak with Mr Williamson, will he confirm that he did not discuss matters concerning the Health Services Union, Fair Work Australia, Mr Craig Thomson or Ms Kathy Jackson?

Senator Chris Evans: Mr President, on a point of order: I am sure Senator Conroy will answer any relevant parts of that question but, listening to the question, there was no part of the question that went to Senator Conroy's ministerial responsibilities in this chamber. There was not even an attempt to pretend that it was at all relevant to his responsibilities and it seems to me that it is out of order.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy, you will be required to answer those parts of the questions that pertain to your portfolio.




Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:02): Thank you. As Senator Evans has indicated, there is no part of that question that impinges on my ministerial responsibility. As I have said publicly already, I do not even know the number of the switch at Fair Work Australia, I do not think I have ever met anybody from Fair Work Australia and I have had no contact with Fair Work Australia.


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:03): He studiously avoided mentioning contact with Mr Thomson, the HSU and Ms Kathy Jackson. My supplementary question is: I refer to the existence of a Labor Party dirt file on HSU boss, Kathy Jackson. Has the minister seen it or any part of it?

The PRESIDENT: Again, the minister can only answer matters that relate to the portfolio. I invite the minister, if there are matters relating to his portfolio, to answer the question.



Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:03): I have spoken publicly on this issue before. I have been accused of accessing Telstra's database apparently and, as I said, I have never had access to anybody's phone records.


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:04): A further supplementary question: will the minister confirm whether he has had any part in any of the attempts to traduce Ms Kathy Jackson's reputation—

Senator Conroy interjecting

Senator ABETZ: it is not a laughing matter, Minister—in an attempt to protect the member for Dobell, Mr Craig Thomson?



Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:04): He has got absolutely nothing. I am not surprised that those opposite do not want to ask about the rollout of the National Broadband Network because they have not bothered about it for the past six months or year and they are not interested. They campaign for it in their electorates but they oppose getting it. Mr President, there is no part of that question that touches on my portfolio. I invite them to ask me a question about my portfolio.